Accidental complexity is something that can be simplified by a new idea, design, technique, procedure or approach. Essential complexity is something that can't be simpler or something that loses value when it becomes simpler.Identifying the difference between accidental and essential complexity is a fundamental design technique. Accidental complexity is an opportunity to make something more valuable by simplifying it. Attempts to reduce essential complexity are futile or damaging.
Accidental ComplexityAccidental complexity is an opportunity to introduce a simplification that adds unambiguous value. For example, if software contains a bug that causes a mobile device to run slowly, fixing it adds value.
Essential ComplexityEssential complexity is something that loses value if it is simplified. A clear example is a calculation that can be shown by proof to have no shortcut. In many cases, essential complexity is a judgment call. If you remove a popular control or feature from software, the software may still function but it has arguably lost value due to the simplification.Essential complexity is influenced by human factors such as culture. For example, fast food is fast, efficient, cheap and convenient. However, slow food enthusiasts might feel that fast food removes things that have value such as local seasonal ingredients, social meals, sustainable agriculture and complex tastes.
Something that can be simplified in a way that adds unambiguous value.
Something that can't be simplified without losing value.
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