Monday, May 25, 2009

It's Contagious

I've concluded from personal experience that the results of good design are contagious. A little over a year ago, I bought an iPhone. I didn't buy it for the great functionality (frankly, there are plenty of smart phones with more functionality than the iPhone). I bought the iPhone because, once I held one in my hand and used it, all other smart phones were ruined for me. The design, which resulted in a unique user experience, sealed the deal for me: the feel, the user interface, the intuitive use won me over. Shortly thereafter, my wife decided she wanted an iPhone too...same reasons. Last November, I switched over from a PC to an iMac to my home machine. I only considered an iMac because of the halo effect from my iPhone. Then I discovered the lower total cost of ownership, the higher reliability. Then I used one for a few minutes and another unique user experience as a result of the iMac/OS X design, so I made the leap. Any guesses what happened next?

I spent a few hours this weekend setting up my wife's new iMac (actually, she fired it up; I just moved her data from her Windows box and installed a few software programs). She's working with it in her home office (down the hallway from mine) as I write this. Every few minutes, I hear a laugh of glee as she discovers more about working with the iMac and OS X. Seems Apple has yet another convert.

I've written here before about how design matters. Seems to me that the folks at Apple have the design thing worked out pretty well, especially in terms of interaction with the end user. OS X is a much cleaner and more intuitive interface than Windows XP or Vista (Windows 7 too, although I haven't seen the latest beta). Not to mention no Blue Screen Of Death, no viruses (although that could be changing even as I write this), etc. Even opening the packaging for an Apple product is an experience. My takeaway from my Apple experience (so far) is that people care about design in terms of the way in which they interact with a product or system. In other words, design is not just about form but also about function.

Let's take the idea of design into the world of enterprise software. When is the last time anybody heard some laugh with glee over the user interface for an enterprise application like my wife is chortling over her new iMac (I just heard another one)? While I don't think I've heard such a reaction to an enterprise app UI in years, I do believe we may see that type of reaction in the future. Some of the UI features I've seen in Fusion Apps are pretty exciting. I've also seen some really cool things in the works at Oracle's Usability Labs, where they're emphasizing the manner in which design affects the entire user experience. So it really doesn't matter whether we're talking desktop computers or enterprise applications (or cars or toasters or refrigerators), the relationship between design and the user experience matters. And when you get the design right, the joy of your users can be downright contagious.


Anonymous said...

When I came into the EBS world a few years ago, I was abhorred by the design, the usability and the non-intuitiveness of it all. And the best part was: I had to convince customers (the actual users, not the ones who bought it) that it wasn't so bad. But it was... It hasn't approved much over the years, while the rest of the world is doing much better. I haven't had a look at fusion apps yet, but can you honestly say it's an improvement, or is Oracle still way behind?

(had the priviledge to work with SAP once, wasn't great either in regard to usability)

fteter said...

@Anonymous: I can honestly say it's an improvement. Will it need more work after release? Yup...I'm sure we'll see lots of positive and negative feedback from users that will drive design changes. But yes, it's definitely a huge step in the right direction.