Does Minimalism Have A Place In Software?

Sometimes when I think of minimalism, I think of those people that have five shirts, two pairs of pants, one pair of shoes, a phone, a laptop, and that’s it. Sure, that’s minimalism all right. But that’s minimalism taken to the extreme.

You can do that with your software too, but most people don’t want or need to take it that far. Instead, you can use a dash of minimalism to keep your software and your processes sane.

Have you ever been on a team where you were asked to add every feature under the sun? Or a team where the software development process had so many steps that no one fully understood it? When you add too much complexity, you start to miss the big picture of what you’re doing.

Every extraneous feature distracts from what the most useful part of your software is. This is true for your users and for your team supporting it. I’m not saying you shouldn’t add new features. But before you do, really think if they are useful to your users. If they aren’t, wouldn’t you rather work on ones that are?

Similarly for software processes, when you add too many steps, it takes away from the core of what you’re trying to do: ship useful software. Aim for the fewest amount of steps and number of stakeholders you need to do that. Anything extra is just clouding people’s attention.

Minimalism isn’t about having the least amount of stuff. It’s about focusing on the most important things and ignoring everything else.

If it’s your life, that means getting rid of things you don’t value—objects, people, commitments—so you can spend your time focusing on things you do value.

If it’s your software, that means focusing on the most useful set of features for your users.

If it’s your company’s processes, that means not bogging down your team in bureaucracy and letting them deliver useful features. Think more of trying to aim a bottle rocket and less about trying to steer a ship.

So you don’t have to delete all of your features and CSS styles to be a minimalist. Just start focusing more on what matters and less on all the fluff.

And yes, minimalism absolutely has a place in software, as it does in life. But maybe don’t throw away all of your shirts and shoes and pants.