In praise of simple solutions.

white flush door
Photo by Rodrigo Santos on

Sometimes, simplicity beats sophistication.

Part of my day job involves creating, revising, and maintaining documents across different platforms, using a variety of templates. These templates often include a series of broken lines for signatures and dates.

One of my colleagues spent some time creating a specialized two-column template feature with specialized margins, lines as embedded objects, the whole nine–and plopped that into our template. It works great–as long as you don’t touch anything.

My preferred approach? Typing a line of underscores, tabbing over a couple times, and then typing a smaller line of underscores.

Sophisticated? Obviously not. But the simplified approach works for me because it’s easy to create, easy to explain, and easy to fix if you accidentally “break” it with some errant copying and pasting. I’ve lost quite a bit of time trying to un-break sophisticated template formatting over the years.

Obviously, if you have more sophisticated needs or complex procedures, you should use the tools and techniques that are appropriate. But too often, I think we assume that the most sophisticated and complex tool or approach is always the best choice for the task.

A question we should consider instead is: How complicated does this solution really need to be? And how simple could it be and still do the job I need it to do?