The book Simple and Usable Web, Mobile, and Interaction Design describes four methods of simplifying a product, using a TV remote as an example:
Mary Lou presents an interesting UI concept she calls morphing buttons. The idea reminds me of the visual effect iOS7 uses when you tap on an application icon: the icon zooms in to fill the whole screen, transforming smoothly into the application itself. In this case instead of the application icon we have the button.
One of the biggest flubs that product teams make is confusing designs that look great with designs that actually work well. It’s a simple mistake, but it can have grave consequences: If your product doesn’t work well, no one will even care how it looks, after all.
The best way I’ve found to get around this confusion is a technique called story-centered design. The idea is to create a series of narrative use-cases for your product that illustrate every step in the user’s journey through it. I’ve used this technique with dozens of startups and it always helps teams move past the surface visual details to make better decisions on what really matters: how their product finally works.