This ongoing research project is concerned with people’s perceptions regarding simplicity and complexity of user interface (UI) design of interactive systems. Human-computer interaction (HCI) experts suggest that simplicity is a key factor in enhancing system usability. According to this view, simplicity enables users to achieve their goals efficiently and effectively, and by that to enhance their satisfaction.

Recent voices in the HCI community, however, have observed that people actually prefer complex interfaces to simpler ones (e.g., Norman, 2007). We refer to the gap between the observed behavior and the advocated design guidelines as the paradox of simplicity: whereas simplicity supposedly enhances performance and helps users achieve their goals, people actually seem to prefer complex designs.

In this paper we propose a theoretical framework for the study of the simplicity paradox. Our model suggests that simplicity and complexity are potent signifiers that carry direct and indirect meaning and determine people's choice of a system. The analysis relates to four main system attributes: functionality, usability, aesthetics and symbolism. We suggest that individual, cultural and context variables serve as moderators in determining people’s preference of complex or simple interfaces.