We like complexity?

Speaking with Fabien about my Geoware presentation, one the issue I raised is that some mobile social software have an intrinsic complexity that make them unusable. For example, this crazy project by Honda makes me utterly skeptic. I don't know whether it's a east-asian thing but there seem to be a tendancy towards complexity here (and yes I know Honda is japanese). This eventually leads to a paper by Don Norman that state how cluttered asian interface are perceived as powerful application. Some excerpts:

"I recently toured a department store in South Korea. (...) I found the traditional “white goods” most interesting: Refrigerators and washing machines. The store obviously had the Korean companies LG and Samsung, but also GE, Braun, and Philips. The Korean products seemed more complex than the non-Korean ones, even though the specifications and prices were essentially identical. “Why?” I asked my two guides, both of whom were usability professionals. “Because Koreans like things to look complex,” they responded. It is a symbol: it shows their status.

But while at the store, I marveled at the advance complexities of all appliances, especially ones that once upon a time were quite simple: for example, toasters, refrigerators, and coffee makers, all of which had multiple control dials, multiple LCD displays, and a complexity that defied description."

SO what's Norman's lesson?

"Why is this? Why do we deliberately build things that confuse the people who use them? Answer: Because the people want the features. Because simplicity is a myth whose time has past, if it ever existed."

And, as he explains we do not have to go to Korea or Iran to find this tendancy, we can find it everywhere. Why do I blog this? What is interesting is that Norman is a "less is more" person so he cannot really be challenged on that topic (though some readers took the piss and harshly complained):

"I am not advocating bad design. I am simply pointing out a fact of life: purchasers, on the whole, prefer more powerful devices to less powerful ones. They equate the apparent simplicity of the controls with lack of power: complexity with power"