Everyone in the software industry knows how fickle users can be. One wants it this way, one the other. Everyone thinks that the interface or the features they need at this moment are what is most important. Almost nobody really knows everything that the software can do, yet opinions are all over the place. Somewhere there is a company guru (if you haven’t fired him) that knows the ins and outs, that has met many users, that has seen crazy applications. But most of the time, everyone works the software in the “wrong” way. You are clicking six times when you could automate it down to two. “If you download the latest version and learn how to use that new menu properly….”
But of course, users don’t care. They just want to get their jobs done. Quickly and easily. Without having to learn new things. So even saturated product segments can be shaken up. Here are two examples:
Media Player. Settled matter isn’t it? Windows Media Player, Quicktime, VLC…what more can we add to this simple software? Here is one simple feature that would get me installing at the drop of a hat: instant delete. I get given loads of MP3 files. Or I experiment with new types of music. As I listen to a song I either like it (keeper) or don’t (delete). I want one button to do it. No, I don’t want to stick tags, or stars or rate it to delete later. I want to send it to the Underworld of music not worth listening to ever again. I listened for 5, 10 or 30 seconds and I don’t want to waste any more time with it. Sure, the main use is for people downloading illegally. Or with friends that download illegally. But if that is how I like to occasionally listen to the Top40 (I usually weed that down to 3-4 songs that are bearable) that is the software I want.
A similar example would be photo management. Here more companies seem to see the sense in a new interface paradigm. I shoot huge files with my digital camera, even if it is not in RAW. And then I want to do something with them. So I have to resize them, edit them individually, stick together whichever pics were meant as a panorama, hide the faces of any friends or relatives that don’t want to be on the internet, watermark them… it is a lot of work. Get some technology to do this automatically in “good enough” way please. Locally, on my hard disk. Most of the planet doesn’t enjoy broadband speeds and even if you do, uploading everything at full resolution isn’t usually the way to go. Sure I could write macro commands….macro what? We are in the age of simplicity. Users are twiddling their thumbs at phones and tablets. Just get it done. If you wan’t to stick it on the back of Google Instant Upload or Facebook’s latest attempt at convincing me to trust them with all my pictures, fine.
These features may seem minor to a seasoned software developer. It is a fad, you are just one user, you can do it in a million different ways already with other software, it isn’t really our main focus….etc. But even I, the man who keeps his work computer carefully maintained for top speed and as uncluttered as possible, would probably install a new software to get them done. User interface isn’t the thing anymore. I am looking for a digital slave.