Re: Techies vs Usability vs. Porn

Subject: Re: Techies vs Usability vs. Porn
From: Andrew Plato <intrepid_es -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: Techwrl-l <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 16 Feb 2000 12:36:50 -0800 (PST)


"Jim Shaeffer" <jims -at- spsi -dot- com> wrote in message news:36632 -at- techwr-l -dot- -dot- -dot-
>
> <snip>Clearly the market has said "usability is secondary to
> functionality."</snip>
>
> Then how do we explain the success of Windows and of Microsoft Office?<g>
>
> More to the point, the market is not a monolith. Early adopters will choose
> functionality over usability. Mature and mass markets will demand usability.
> (Fun when the managers are early adopters and the workers are mass-market
> types.) AOL, Amazon.com and Microsoft are fanatic about ease of use and use
> their technological expertise to deliver it.

You answered your own question here Jim. Windows succeeds because it is light
years ahead of everything else *on the market* (note emphasis) in terms of
usability, compatibility, and APIs.

Now - you may disagree with this and think Windows and MS Office are terrible
in terms of usability. And from a academic or practical perspective, you may be
absolutely correct. However, if you place these products against others on the
market, clearly they are better than the alternatives. This is why they are
popular.

Try spending a day with Solaris, Linux, or for real fun - HP UNIX. These
systems are painfully complex and difficult to use. Unless you are a network
engineer, Solaris and UNIX are virtually useless to the average joe. In
comparison, Windows excels in usability.

This does not mean Windows is the pinnacle of usability engineering. There is
a big difference between being the best there is and the best on the market. No
technology will ever make all people happy. Windows simply is the best there
is, it is not, necessarily the best that can be.

However, since nobody else has the technological and marketing clout of
Microsoft, it is safe to say that Windows is about as good as you can get for
the time being.

Usability is not a perfect science. Like all things in business including tech
comm it is an 80/20 issue. If you can make a product or document that meets
the needs of 70% to 80% of the people using it, then the product will succeed.

There may be a better way to write the doc, design the screen, or flow out the
web site - but that system may take too long to implement or cost too much
money. In the scope of global business, just because there is a better way to
do something does not mean you do it. "Best practice" is not a mandate from
God. Being first to market and first to meet customers needs always outweighs
the "best methods".

Thus, this is why many documentation processes fail. They fail to realize that
the ideal way to do a task is not always the best in terms of business. There
are countless examples of technologies that were far superior in terms of
engineering and capabilities but were total market failures. Yeah - betamax may
have been a better video tape - BUT NOBODY BOUGHT THEM. So it doesn't much
matter that it was better.

Likewise, the Rational MungaMaster Process may be an exquisite way to assess
the needs of users and design rational user interfaces. BUT IF NOBODY BUYS THE
SOFTWARE, it won't matter if you used a $50,000.00 process or a $5.00 process.


Like I said, you may not like this arrangement, but I can guarntee you there is
nothing you or I can do to change it. This is how capital markets work. Your
only alternative is to move to Mars.

Andrew Plato

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