Simplify is made and maintained by
Michael Leggett. Michael was Gmail's
design lead from 2008 to 2012 and a co-founder and design lead for
Google Inbox. Michael has been writing Chrome extensions for years to
simplify apps but had only ever shared them with friends. With the
unfortunate demise of Google Inbox, he wanted to offer a more simplified
Gmail experience to everyone.
Furthermore, Simplify's products
do not send or receive data of any kind from your account or
We aim to make software worth paying for and taking strictest stance on
privacy possible. Your privacy and the security of your account and data
is of the utmost importance to us.
Make existing products more simple, capable, and respectful.
Why does Simplify exist?
Bad design is everywhere. I’m equating bad design with anything
that makes a product harder to use or less user-centric. Bad design can
occur for a number of reasons including but not limited to:
Our needs as users are not well understood, prioritized, or aligned
with the company’s goals.
Entropy: The natural decline of products over time as the vision
decays or blurs and new features are conceived without consideration
of the whole and added faster than the system’s overall design and
architecture can evolve to support them.
Good design is hard. Good design is more than making a product pretty.
It is about having the right capabilities in an intuitive, respectful,
and well-crafted offering. I hope to expand on this topic in future
Bad design has real costs. It costs us our productivity, our
attention, our sanity, our privacy, and more. The
Center for Humane Technology
puts it this way:
Even with the best intentions, social media companies are under immense
pressure to prioritize engagement and growth. This creates a race for
human attention that has unleashed invisible harms in society.
Most companies are under this pressure, not just social media companies.
I should be able to read my email without having to ignore a sea of
unread notifications and new feature promotions or
worrying about email trackers spying on me.
As users, we are at a supreme disadvantage in the battle for our
attention. Our time, attention, productivity, and joy are invaluable and
they are worth fighting for.
As users, we can’t fix bad design (until now)
- Sending feedback just feels like screaming into the wind.
- We can rarely change software we use on our own.
Even when we can modify our apps, doing so takes time and expertise
and those modifications may break over time if not well supported.
We can “vote with our feet” and switch products, but there isn’t
always a better option or we’re locked into our current option.
What is Simplify?
Simplify is a unique approach to solving bad design. It is software
(browser extensions for now) that modify the products you already use.
While browser extensions that modify apps aren’t new, there aren’t many
that are high quality, well maintained, and opinionated.
Other ways to solve bad design
The obvious ways to tackle the above problem is from the inside.
I’ve tried that. As much
as I loved Google Inbox (a product and team I co-founded but left before
launch), what launched was a well executed and polished but watered-down
version of the original vision.
It isn’t that the teams behind these products don’t care. They care
deeply. But big products have big teams and are often inside big
companies with their own bigger (and often unclear) priorities. It is
Another option is to build a startup that creates a competing product.
This might work but…
- Products like Gmail are actually pretty good already.
Replacing them entirely would be a lot more work which would make the
product more expensive. And while it may be better in some areas, it
will likely be worse in others (see #1) meaning you are paying more
and possibly getting less overall.
Shipping a new product asks more of you, the user. I don’t want to ask
you to change what product you use or migrate your data.
Finally, I want to push the big companies to do better by showing them
how their products can be better. It is easier for big companies to
dismiss small competitors as niche products that don’t consider the
full complexity of their product. What if the upstart
is their product?
Who is Simplify for?
I’m fighting for everyone but focused on people that fit any of the
following profiles (all of which fit for me):
Maximizers: Those that seek to be the most productive in using
Form and function: Those that value really good design over
good-enough design without having to sacrifice robust capabilities.
Privacy-concerned: Those that care about privacy. Privacy isn’t
about keeping everything private (an email app where you can’t send or
receive messages?) — it is about you having control over what is
shared and how it is used. And exercising that control shouldn’t be a
lot of work.
Distracted: Those that have a hard time staying focused and
productive in a noisy interface, or in a product engineered to keep us
glued when we want to move on.
The paid subscription will launch in March 2021. Here is the planned
$2/mo/person (paid annually) for an individual, and
$1/mo/person for each additional person on a plan. Paying monthly
costs more to cover the additional fees.
One person covers 10 email accounts: Each person on a
subscription can use Simplify on 10 email accounts and you can contact
me if you need more.
Auto-renewal will be optional at sign-up for annual
subscriptions, and I’ll be sure notifications go out before renewal
for those who elect to keep it enabled.
Can I get it for free? Maybe. I’d much rather pay you for
successful referrals than pay Facebook to spam people with ads. I'm
still working out the details but, with enough referrals, Simplify
Gmail could be free.
Here is what the pricing page might look like: