You are a designer. You have the ability to create MASSIVE worlds, confusing labyrinths, and complex structures of beauty. That kind of power is an amazing feeling, and the need to build massive, great, and complex things to show what you can do is tempting. Sometimes though… it is easier just to take a step back and build something small and simple. But why do this, when you can build cities?
Simplify to amplify
I must remind you that you are not here to build only for yourself. You are here to build an experience for everyone who plays on your map. They are on your map for the experience that it creates, not for the map itself. When looking at just a map, a complex, large, difficult-to-build structure is impressive. But the more complex the map is, the more difficult it can be to accomplish objectives on the map. If I place you in a box and tell you to kill the other person then all you have to do is focus on killing the other person. Now what if I throw a wall in between you? Now you have to work around the wall and adjust accordingly. Now add some ramps, a couple catwalks, some slick jumps, and maybe even a dense fog. Now you are starting to get to the point where you are fighting more against the map than you are the other person. Since the goal was to kill the other person, you can see how this just gets frustrating to a point. Build your map to meet the experience you are trying to create without over complicating the situation. Sometimes that means building in the simplest form in certain areas.
Ease of learning
Creating your map with the concept of simplicity can help in other ways as well. Remember that knowledge is power, and teaching your map quickly to your players can help them get to the meat of the experience. Through a simple layout one can quickly teach what the player needs to know and have them spend the majority of their time completing the task at hand. Learning the map is only a small and quick part of strategy. The real strategy is learning to use the map to give you an advantage in different situations. There is no harm in teaching players what they need to know right away. It can actually help players enjoy their experience more because now they have more options in which they can accomplish their goal. Simplicity can work as a good thing and as a bad thing. You want to have a simple enough layout to be able to teach your players quickly, but you also want a complex enough layout so that players have more options when dealing with situations. As with all design topics, you have to find that delicate balance for your maps.
Less can be more
So when designing your map, question yourself on how complex you are making it. Do you really need 5 paths into this one room? Is setting up 12 different main paths going to really improve the combat on your map by giving your players more options? Or is it just going to cause the player to get lost and make playing too difficult, causing a bad first impression? Is it really necessary to have 7 floors for your map when only 3 of them are getting used regularly? Maybe having too many floors is spreading out traffic too much, creating too sparse of an experience. Does your map really have to take an age and a half to traverse? Think about it…