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Gall’s Law

Gall’s Law


Gall’s Law is a rule of thumb for systems design that suggests trying to design complex systems from scratch will inevitably lead to failure. There are too many interdependencies and variables that should be allowed to evolve over time as a result of environmental selection forces. Gall argues that all complex systems have evolved over time from simple systems that worked.

John Gall first introduced the concept in his book, Systemantics: How Systems Really Work and How They Fail. The law is consistent with the under-specification of projects and agile software development. Although evidence is anecdotal, it has been used to explain the success of the World Wide Web and Facebook. These systems were initially fairly simple and have gradually become more complex of time.

Implications for conversion rate optimisation:

  1. Keep scope focused on important customer needs and avoid adding unnecessary features.
  2. Fix the basics first before developing new functionality and features.
  3. Make allowance for your application or website to evolve over time by setting expectations that the system needs to be responsive to changing customer needs. Use A/B and multivariate testing to validate whether proposed changes are an improvement.


Gall’s Law tells us not to try to run before we can walk. Get the basics of the user experience right first and build a roadmap for an evolutionary roadmap to respond to environmental pressures and changing user needs.


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