Sunday, October 3, 2004

Can things simply work?

There is no doubt in my mind why I don't have a PDA or a Smart Phone or an iPod or a Window's Mobile-based Media Device. I just know they are going to be too complicated. Can you gurantee that they are going to simplify my life? I think not. I can just imagine the 'syncing' issues. Why can't I just plug it in and sync? Why - because that's only the first thing that I would want. Of course I want control over what gets synced and hence the problem. Once you give me the ability to specify what to sync, it now becomes more then a one step process to sync and that's too much.

This problem can be seen at a much broader level with computer software. I want ease of use, no matter how much it conflicts with the software industry. Technical support, consultants and the tombs of books at our local bookstore are just a few examples of other businesses that are built around hard to use software. Can we stop it? Maybe, but it's probably too late. Once this much money is being made in secondary industries it hard to stop.

Can things not be made to be easy? How can I explain how to use this thing if it's that complicated? Sure, after you become an 'expert' it seems easy. In fact it becomes so simple that you haven't got the time to deal with people who don't, "get it". So people who find technology to be difficult will always be left behind. And those who become experts gladly leave behind those less fortunate.

I've been responsible for many software projects and designed what I considered to be great, flexible and easy to use software that does everything. But right there is the problem. As soon as someone says, "you can do everything with that software" the reality is that means the majority of people can do nothing with it. Let's take Adobe's Photoshop for example. Wow, an absolutely amazing piece of software, in fact it's on my top 10 list of favourite software. What's the problem? Any person picking up that software today at version 8 would have no chance of understanding it's complexities. Think about it, all your Father wants to do is send you a small digital photo. Good luck. And who's fault is it? Is it the arogant software publishers who think they know what customers want? No. In reality it's us the everyday end-user. Why? When was the last time you wanted a new version of software that had less features? That's right less. They took something out! How about it? Contact a software publisher and tell them you never use feature(s) x,y,z and tell them you don't want them. Take it out. How does this help? In order to understand this we need a little insight into the software development world...