Online Simplex

Click/tap drop-down items to open or close them individually

  •   Tips
    •   Navigating the app


      The app is technically a single webpage with parts hidden until clicked or tapped. The content is divided into tabs for main sections and each tab has an accordion for sub-sections. From the "Steps" page you can also access a diagram with a button at the top left.


      The accordion allows you to see the main points at a glance. You can open or close all the parent items with the button at the top-right, or click/tap the items to open/close them individually and read more detailed text. Nested items have to be opened individually.

      There is also a faint arrow button near the lower edge to jump to the top on long pages.

    •   News and updates


      The third item on the Home tab contains a live, embedded page which is drawn from the website when you are online. It shows the latest news, and, yes, also some ads (see the advertising policy on that page).

      I also use the news page as a newsletter. When I have a new post on the website, it will be announced in the app too.

      The News drop-down item is open by default when you first open the app . Once you close any drop-down item, it remains closed during that session until you open it yourself, so you won't be pestered with pop-ups and such like. You choose what you want to see from there on.

      App updates

      If you have cached the app to your device any updates to the app are automatic (if you are interested in the technical side you can do a search for "offline web app"). Your own data should be safe, as it is stored separately, but to be on the safe side I give a day's notice to allow you to transfer your data to another file (see also the "Keep a record" item below). So, do keep an eye on the news page.

      If your app does not update

      Although the app should update automatically, the updated version does not show until the app has been re-loaded live from the home screen, i.e. closed and opened again when online. If you have not seen any obvious changes compare the version number at the bottom of this tab with the number in the app update announcement. If there is a difference and several days have past, try to close and open the app again whilst online. If the change still does not appear your device may not be able to recognise the update feature. You may need to uninstall the app and clear the browser history to flush the old version. Check the new version first by visiting the website in a different browser and see if the update is preferred before taking those steps. See also "When an app isn't an app" below. Warning! If you clear all browser history and data other stored data will also be deleted.

    •   Keep a record

      You can keep track with a checklist in this app. The widget is only intended to be used as a temporary record.

      Some devices may not be able to use this feature. If you experience any problems, please refresh the page to revive it.

      Where is my data kept?

      The record will be saved in your browser (not the app) until you clear the browser history or empty the cache from within the app (see below). It will only show up in the same browser it was created in. If you use another browser to use the app live online via the website you can still use the checkboxes, but each browser will only display the result created and saved in it.

      If you saved the app to your mobile home screen, the data will be kept in the default browser, but you still access the app and its data from the home screen shortcut.

      Each widget has a unique ID. When you save data in one app, it will not be overwritten in another, even if it is the same type of widget.

      Please also note that the data of all web apps downloaded to the same browser from will share the same cache - a virtual container.

      If your record is important please copy it to a permanent file. You may also like to test if and how your device saves data before using the widget.

      Also see "When an app is not an app..."

      Empty Cache

      Any changes you make in any of the widgets are stored cumulatively. Even if you clear a field the action is stored. Although the size of the browser cache could hold a lot of checkbox data, it will add up over time. You can manually flush the cache with the "Empty Cache" button or clear the browser history in the Settings of your browser. Changes only show up after refreshing the browser or closing and re-opening the app.

    •   When an app isn't an app

      This is not a native app, but an "offline web application" (though for ease I will refer to it as "app"). It is a webpage (or pages) cached to your device for off-line use. On some devices you can save the "app" icon to the home screen just like an app, but this is technically just a shortcut to the webpage, which is cached in the browser which was used to download it. When you open it from the home screen you also get the full-screen experience of an app and can use it off-line. As an aside, when you open it from the home screen you do not have to open the browser which cached it.

      Although the web app behaves in many ways like a native app, there are some differences. One is, that it is not updated by the user. It is done automatically when a certain file is updated and uploaded to the server and the user is subsequently connected to the internet.

      How to delete the app

      If you no longer find it useful or you want to later upgrade to an expanded version, you can delete the app and all the data by deleting the home screen button in the usual way. The data cache can be removed from the browser by either clearing the browser history completely or going into the advanced setting and looking for data cached by the website "". However, the amount of data you are likely to store in this limited app will not be more than a few kb. See also "Keeping a record"

    •   Known bugs

      Unfortunately, I was unable to get some features to work on my Android phone.

      However, this was tested on a two-tree year old Samsung phone with Android 2.3.3 and may not be a problem on your device. Everything worked fine on my iPad and iPod, also in Firefox, Safari and Chrome desktop. No other device was tested, so there may be problems with other devices or bugs not listed here.

      Sorry, if any bugs show up on your device. I have already (probably) doubled my grey hairs over debugging a gazillion problems developing this app, so I had to call it a day. If I find a solution it will go into an update. Hopefully you will still find the app of use.

      Here are a few bugs I discovered.

      To top arrow

      The "to top" arrow does not seem to work on the first tab, but does on the others, sometimes.

      Tab width

      Another quirk is that sometimes the tabs spread beyond the screen edge. Sometimes changing from portrait to landscape fixes it, but sometimes only a refresh will do so.

      Blank tabs

      Occasionally you may find that when you change tabs that you get a blank page. This is due to changing tabs quickly before the live page had time to load fully. You can easily get the content back by changing to any other tab and then back to the one which didn't show. It should now show properly.

  •   Introduction

    Problem solving? Design?

    Why is problem solving and design often lumped together? I think Herbert Simon hit the nail on the head with this quote:

    "Everyone designs who devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones."
    Herbert Simon

    A problem is simply a situation we would prefer to be different, as is an object we design - we want one which suits our (or someone else's) purpose better. So we design a way to get from here (less desirable) to there (more desirable).

    That makes everyone a designer. Want to build a house extension? Tackling that question makes you a designer, even if you don't put pen to draft paper. You will be thinking about what kind of extension, how big, what type of structure, where, and many more variables. If you do your design job well, you will also want to think about "what for?". But even that heart-to-heart with your teenage daughter can benefit from carefully considered thoughts. Yes, that too makes you a solution designer.

    The bigger the investment, the more important the decision, or the more intractable the problem, the more we benefit from a systematic approach to solution design.

    A Balancing Act

    First of all, I would like to emphasise that a problem solving map or system is not an all left-brain, mechanical approach to solving your problems. It is more like a checklist for making the right considerations in the right order, and not leaving out important ones. Feeling and intuition still play a large part. We cannot separate ourselves from our emotions. We can, however, make sure we consider our future emotions, and the wider impact.

    Solution Design - the Steps

    If you do an online image search for "problem solving" you will find a large number of systems and charts (sometimes called "simplex"), but most are designed for industry and large organisations, and are over-kill for us mere individual mortals. So I've distilled the information of many, many sources into a more user-friendly system for you and me, adding a dose of my own experience and thoughts.

    At first glance it may look daunting, however, it is a simple flow-chart with an obvious beginning (it even says "start") and steps to get to the goal. It is not unlike a certain game with the "GO" field at the beginning, but hopefully it won't land you in jail at any point ☺ . Treating a problem like a game is more fun, don't you think?

    These are, of course, the broad strokes, your global check list and map to point you in the right direction. Also, the steps are only broadly in sequence. In practice, there is a lot of back and forth between the main steps with micro-steps.

    Match the Process to the Problem

    Not every problem requires a thorough walk through the steps. Instead, we can skip or run through some and dwell a little on the necessary ones. Match the depth of the process to the size of the problem. Nevertheless, even a small problem can be solved more quickly by using the key questions and a little creativity and judgement. In the end you will, of course, act one way or another. The steps guide will ensure you have not overlooked anything.

    Last, but not least...

    I hope you will find this app useful. Any suggestions or feedback is welcome.

  •   News, updates and ads

    Clicking/tapping on a link below may open another page or your default browser depending on how and where you stored this applet. Also see note below frame.

    Requires internet connection.

    If any linked content loads in the frame above you can use the Refresh button to re-load the news page.

© Judith Pilawa 2015 and beyond

You may share this publication as long as you do not change it or charge for it.


The 5 Main Areas

  • Prepare mind, body, work area


    • Set the conditions for effective problem solving


    • Effective mind and body
    • Organised work area

    Key words

    • Mind, brain
    • Work area
    • Work conditions
    • Foundation


    • All areas

    Key questions

    • Am I at my best?
    • Have I got a work area and tools which support my work?
  • Explore the problem



    • need, desire
    • cause
    • information, data
    • function

    Collect and Organise

    • information, data


    • Problem statement
    • Information (support material)
    • Causes
    • The brief

    Key words

    • Collect
    • Organise
    • Clarify
    • Define
    • Fact finding
    • Goal
    • Cause
    • Analyse


    • Organise data, information
    • Find causes
    • Pinpoint goals
    • Learning
    • Research

    Key questions

    • What
    • Who
    • Where is...
    • Why
  • Create potential solutions


    Stage 1

    • Generate ideas for potential solution(s)

    Stage 2

    • Find a way to do it - refinement
    • Mitigate


    • Selection of potential solutions
    • A refined solution

    Key words

    • Ideas
    • Solutions
    • Ideation


    • Ideation
    • Design
    • Mitigation

    Key questions

    • How
    • Where could ....
  • Evaluate and choose


    Spot light 1

    • Assess current situation
    • Challenge assumptions

    Spotlight 2

    • Judge ideas


    • Make best choice

    Spotlight 3

    • Assess outcome and determine next step, if any


    • Confirmed or revised brief
    • Value statements
    • Decision
    • Contingency plan

    Key words

    • Judge
    • Challenge
    • Pros and cons
    • Attitude
    • Compare
    • Choose


    • Verify validity of assumptions
    • Risk assessment
    • Contingency planning
    • Decision making

    Key questions

    • Is it a good idea
    • Which
  • Act - implement the solution


    • Organise tasks
    • Determine what is needed to execute the plan
    • Manage projects


    • Task list
    • Schedule
    • Resources
    • Action plan
    • Results

    Key words

    • Plan
    • item
    • Convince
    • Schedule
    • Act, implement, execute


    • Project planning
    • Assembly/process sequence
    • To-do list/schedule
    • Control
    • Problem solving strategies

    Key questions

    • When
    • How?
Simplex Chart



Work area

The Problem
(the effect)

What's wrong?

State the problem


Gather, organise and make sense of information and support material

Find causes

(the brief)

What do I want to achieve?

Determine objective

satisfactory  unsatisfactory
Spotlight 1
(confirmed or
revised brief)

Evaluate information and current state and need

Challenge assumptions

Spotlight 3

Evaluate outcome

Success or failure?

Determine course of action if needed

Plan B

Alternative solution

Contingency plan


Create solutions

Create ideas for
● objects
● process
● layout/structure




List resources needed/available

Manage projects


Determine tasks

Organise tasks
● sequential
● parallel

The Choice


Pick on grounds of
● suitability
● priority

Second choice

Spotlight 2
(potential solution)

Judge ea. idea by
● desirability
● suitability
● usefulness
● feasibility

Before anything else, preparation is the key to success, as Alexander Graham Bell said. Here we are talking about preparing your mind, body and work area. This first step should not be overlooked, especially in a difficult problem situation.

Have you had enough sleep for a thought-intensive session? What about some good brain food? Exercise supports those grey cells too.

What can you do to organise your work area? Are there some aids which will help in your problem solving - a magnet board, mind-mapping software, large sheets of paper, coloured pens, and, and ….?

What have you noticed that you prefer to be different? This is the stage where you become aware of the problem effect. What do I mean by "effect"? This is best illustrated with an example.

You are spending long hours in front of the computer. You've been getting a lot of back ache lately, and your bum doesn't feel too good either. You try an extra cushion, but to no avail. You conclude that chair you use is not really suitable for working at the computer. You buy an expensive office chair and find it makes little difference.

It is easy to skip to what we think is obvious as it stares us in the eye because it is more concrete. In this example the cause was an unsuitable chair and the obvious solution a more suitable one.

If we look at the effect - the pain in the back and you-know-where else, we can then take the wider picture into account in the next stage and increase the potential for a suitable solution.

Gather all relevant information, organise it and make sense of it. Cast your net wide at this point. In another step you will narrow things down again. What is the current situation? What are the circumstances? What data can you find? What are all the potential causes?

In the chair example we acknowledge that the cause can also be the fact that we are sitting for long hours, or even the fact that we are sitting for long hours. This subtle shift in emphasis can make a big difference, one which can point us to an unexpected solution.

Included in the Information step is also global information which you can re-visit repeatedly for related problems. This can be in the form of checklists for practical problems, or some basic understanding of what makes us tick.

Here the key question is "what do I want to achieve?". Get to the core of what you want. This is likely the negation of the effect. In the example above the effect is the pain when you work at the computer. Note that it is not "sitting" in front of the computer, which would be a (potential) cause, not an effect. Assuming that working at the computer is necessary, we discount that as a cause to reverse. So the goal would be not to be in pain when working at the computer.

However, whilst we want to negate the undesirable effect, it may also be an advantage to turn the problem around and frame the goal as something positive to strive for. Rather than avoiding pain our goal can be to work in comfort.

Now we shine a spotlight onto all the statements and information we gathered. And we try to debunk it. Are we making assumptions? We want to make sure we are working on the right problem, have the right information, all of it, and ask ourselves "is that what I really want?".

Theoretically, one can drill down into deeper causes to the point of asking existential questions. In the chair example you might ask "do I really need to work at the computer?", "do I need that money?" "could I go into a Buddhist monastery?". You will have to find your reasonable cut-off point.

The outcome of this will either be confirmation or we have to revise our information or brief.

This is the fun part where we come up with ideas. This is the creative phase. How can we achieve our goal? In the chair example we have established that sitting for long hours is a cause, and so is sitting for long hours. And there is pain, which we don't want. One solution would be to take pain killers. So how do we deal with the long hours? We break up the sessions and move around doing other things, maybe take some exercise. As for sitting, one solution would be to not sit in front of the computer. Maybe a kneeling chair, a standing desk, or reclining in bed. You could also combine the shorter spells and alternating positions. And what about outsourcing some of the work, or dictating whilst you move about?

Now we put each of our ideas under the spotlight. Are they any good? Do they solve the problem? Is there something we can do to mitigate a negative point in an otherwise good idea (back, briefly, to "create")? Judge each idea on grounds of desirability, suitability, usefulness, and feasibility, as well as urgency.

Now we hold the ideas next to each other and compare. Which is the best choice? Can we combine several ideas? It is not always either-or. Is there a second choice? Put this on the back boiler. This could be plan B.

We picked the best choice and now it is time to put things into action. What do we have to do to get this thing done? Break it up into individual tasks. What is the right sequence? Can some things be done in parallel? Are there dependencies?

When should the tasks be done? Does anything need scheduling? Who can help? What resources do I need and which do I have? Then - do it!

This is the morning after, when we look at our deed in the cool light of day. Was it a success? Yes? Goal achieved!

No? There are three alternative paths for an unsatisfactory result. Check the chart.

Simplex Chart

"Empty Cache" will remove all input data from cache and re-loads the page/app. It may also remove data for other apps you may have downloaded from Before flushing the cache please transfer important data to a permanent file in a native app. See note on the Home page under Tips "Keep a record".