Inspired a principle from philosophy, Occam’s Razor is applied to modern design to emphasise simplicity and reduce complexity. 

It takes its name from William of Ockham (also spelt Occam), who was an English Franciscan friar, scholastic philosopher and theologian. He used the principle throughout much of his work. 

To put simply, Occam’s Razor states you must avoid unnecessary elements that do not add value to the user’s experience. 

How do I use Occam’s Razor?

Keep it simple from the start. 

As a creative, it’s tempting to bring in lots of beautiful elements and show off your artistic skills. Instead, when applying Occam’s Razor, we must evaluate each element on the page and judge its necessity. 

It’s important to start with a simple solution and only introduce complexity where absolutely necessary. 

Your design must serve the content and enforce its message and remove any barriers to decision making in order to result in a frictionless experience. 

Meanwhile, if your working with an existing design, you’ll want to go through a similar process with existing elements on the page. Strip back to the bare bones of what is needed on the page and go from there. 

Ask yourself: Does this element provide any meaning or value?

If the answer is no, remove it. 

The result of using Occam’s Razor is more clarity for your user, reducing the decision-making process, which goes hand-in-hand with the concept of Hick’s Law we discussed in a previous blog post. 

Traps to avoid. 

Using Occam’s Razor does not mean your design has to be minimalist, simple or lack sophistication. Many designers fear that clients will look at “simplified design” and wrongly assume that it took the designer ten minutes to knock up. 

In reality, following the principles of Occam’s Razor means that you have carefully considered each and every element of their design. You have put the time in to really make the design work for them. 

Getting started with Occam’s Razor.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Can this process be simpler?
  • Does this element provide meaning or value to the user?
  • Is this design element absolutely necessary to communicate with the user?

Look at the analytics.

If you’re re-designing your website, analytics are a vital step towards getting inside the mind of the user. 

Look at what pages users may be getting stuck on or what pages are causing people to leave the site altogether.  Do these pages have a complex process? Is it clear what the user is supposed to do next? Are they filled with unnecessary and distracting design elements?

Set up focus groups. 

Another way to get a valuable critique of your work and identify areas that don’t communicate well with your target audience is to ask them. 

Focus groups can be really useful to test ideas out on your customers and – ultimately – create a design that really works for its users. 

The key takeaway for Occam’s Razor is to see how simple you can make a design without compromising its overall functionality. 


If you have any questions about Occam’s Razor and how to use it in your business, get in touch with a member of our team today.

T: 01482 755 303 | E: hello@mattixdesign.com

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