The lead developer of NDepend, Patrick Smacchia, explains what he considers a key to a successful interface design:

Make the simple things simple and hard things possible. IMHO, this tenet applies perfectly in how UI should be designed. Typically, the most direct way to use a UI control should result in the most awaited feature from a user perspective (make the simple things simple). Then, some extra/hidden UI control facilities can be added to the control to support more in-depth scenario (make hard things possible).

But achieving simplicity in interface design is everything but an easy task. A common mistake (but apparently not so commonly known) is the oversimplification. It consists in an unfortunate too low threshold in what the designer considers simple things and hard things. It's an error because it may lead the average user to frustration. Every time she needs to activate such a designated "hard" feature, although she would consider it as a basic feature, she has to manipulate a more complex interface to access to the hidden functionality.

A good example is the automatic collapsed/expanded menu of Microsoft Office 2003. Why features like text replace or page setup were put by default in the "hard things" list? The authors have apparently decided that those functionnalities are less commonly used. Perhaps it is true actually, for most users. But what about people who, for a reason or another, needs to use them twenty or fourty times a day?
But generally speaking, determining what is simple and what is hard is a difficult task; especially if you target a wide audience from the modest grandma to the tech geek. Mitigation is always possible by providing some options for personal customization, or automatic adaptation based on the most frequently used commands (like the menus described aboved, in fact). But in the real world (I mean the non-IT world), this is sometimes just impossible. Look at this remote control device I saw recently in a paper advertisment.

Although very simple, the idea is great and not so common for that kind of device. When folded, it presents just a few buttons for the very basic features: turn the TV on and off, change the channels, etc. Only when unfolding it, you can access to the advanced functionalities. One can suppose that a feature like video recording or TV internet access is probably only accessible from inside the remote control. This is surely not an issue for grandma. But for the tech geek, after all, it’s perhaps not a so well designed device.

Think twice about your audience and its level of expertise before implementing such a solution, whatever your system is software- or hardware-based.

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