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We have developed an application that has some revolutionary features that are new in our industry. The UI is stripped to the bare necessities and really easy to use. The revolutionary stuff happens in the back end, which is sweating to make it seem so easy.

The problem we have is that you don't 'feel' in the UI that there is a lot going on in the back end. The application feels really simple and quick, which is nice from a usability perspective, but we want people to appreciate the technology involved to make this possible.

How do you add the feeling (perception) of complexity to an interface without making it more complex to use?

Just to make it clear, I don't want to add any elements to the UI, only give the feeling that it's bigger than it seems.

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    This is an anti-UX question. :) – DA01 Aug 13 '15 at 4:40
  • If this is a game, and things need to be difficult in order to keep users challenged and engaged, then by all means make the UI complex. Otherwise, apply the KISS principle and keep the Mar-Comm from tainting the simplicity. Read this: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marketing_communications – JeromeR Aug 13 '15 at 5:59
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    Think of google as an example. Consider the vast amounts of data centers, storage, and processing they do, all for that one page with nothing but a logo and a text box. People are fine with your complex application looking simple. – Peter Aug 13 '15 at 7:40
  • Set a really high price tag! (Just kidding). Feel free to provide auxiliary documentation explaining in detail what complex stuff is happening for the curious... but don't force users to wade through it just to use your UI. Keep the UI simple... You'd be amazed how many users could care less how something is made, they just want it to work. I consider it a success on my part if a UI appears simple and loads super fast... They shouldn't have to care about the complexities of code, databases, frameworks, algorithms, etc. – scunliffe Aug 13 '15 at 10:18
  • Is the real issue that you want to make sure that users appreciate the value they are being given? – mhick Aug 13 '15 at 12:21
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You can write some intriguing labels with technical words under loading screens, progress bars or success messages.

This can convey the technical magic in a friendly way. For example "Advanced data parsing in progress", "Putting technology into motion", "Activating thousands lines of code".

Reference picture: The Sims game used to have some funny labels while loading: enter image description here


You can also add some statistics about time used to proccess a request. Google still shows that it took less than a second to search, which is a nice way to smuggle information about their technological superiority.

enter image description here

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    Yea, if you want to add the feeling of complexity, this is probably the best way to do it, with little indicators of how much was processed to deliver a given result. This is a funny question, since most of us spend our lives striving to reduce complexity. Or, as DaVinci said, "Simplicity is the greatest sophistication." – RobC Aug 13 '15 at 19:35
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Don't try to add complexity. I get that you believe the application should look and feel as smart as the backend solution, but adding elements for the sake of adding elements is not the way to go.

If the app feels too simple, perhaps you should look into the real value it's bringing to the user. If they can't understand that value, maybe the problem isn't the interface, but the overall purpose.

It is probably not the case, so:

Since the UI is at its bare essentials and works (good job btw), that's when visual design and a smart copy can come to help communicate the ellegance of the brains behind the scenes.

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    I agree with not adding any elements. That was also not my intent, it should remain simple to use. – Martyn Aug 13 '15 at 5:50
  • @JoatRMonteiro May I suggest you add to your answer? It's worth pointing out that the visual design and smart copy (essentially performing a Marketing-communication function) can be present before as expectation setting, or after to highlight the function's benefits. – JeromeR Aug 13 '15 at 5:56
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You don't! The point of UX is making things simple and easy for the user. If you think its too empty it's more of a visual design issue. you could add visual elements like infographics or visuals if you think it'll help

Look at Google's search page. So simple yet so sophisticated.

  • Maybe it wasn't clear, I've edit my post, but I don't want to add any extra elements to the UI. Google has the same thing, the interface is very simple but people don't really appreciate the brains behind that operation (google doesn't want that, which is fine). It doesn't feel like a big deal, which it really is. One of the reasons we would want this is to explain that it is a big deal. You could say our product feels like a simple toy instead of the complex system that it is. – Martyn Aug 13 '15 at 5:48
  • This isn't a problem. Is it about the team's need to feel appreciated? The response by @JoaRMonteiro has some important clues for you: use words and pictures to market the "cleverness" of your solution. – JeromeR Aug 13 '15 at 5:52
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Please don'try to add complexity just for the sake of making the users understand how complex the backend system is. I'd suggest you redefine your goal to get more and more people signingup/using your application that itself would be indication of the successful app and eventually develops like a habit for the users (since you mention its has revolutionary features).

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It'll be helpful to deconstruct the basis of a good user experience here. The application that you have designed might be your and your team's greatest achievement technically. You might be crunching more data than Facebook's servers and doing a better job at it. You might also have built a better cross-OS, cross, device, real-time synced application better than Dropbox.

But, (the big but) the truth is that your user will use the app for the value it is providing him. I will not care about Facebook's infrastructure unless I have friends to connect with or won't care that Guido Van Rossum (creator of Python) is on the board of Dropbox.

What I care is the absolute value these services provide.

However, if you are really want to showoff the stuff that's happening inside, use UI tricks like the loading screens and progress bars and add elements of data crunching there. Example, Hitting up million lines of code for you or similar other metrics.

Here are some examples of well designed progress bars. https://blog.kissmetrics.com/the-progress-bar/

Hope this helps.

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