Friday, September 26, 2003

Complex Simplicity

For software developers it is a double edged sword in delivering a good product. Once a product is brought through the conceptual stage and later completing both alpha and beta stages, the next step is shipping. This is a great moment at long last your product is ready to hit the mass market. "Why is this a double edge sword?" you ask. Mainly due to the nature of the business or improving on an idea.

Let's start with a good idea for a program. In this case we came up with the idea for software that will test the ripeness of melons. Now before we can begin coding on this we need to outline what we want it to do. We decide that to be the best darn melon testing software out there that the use of sound waves can help us achieve this. So we generate some inital concept sketches and create a scope of work defining how to build our machine and how this interacts with the software. Now we have to look for investors to help back us (we are not all willing to max out our credit cards or take on a second mortgage right? ). With a few bucks in hand to cover expenses and development costs we can now flash forward, after many moons of work we have our hardware and software ready to share with a few other users. We open up a testing cycle for alpha to iron out any bugs or procedures we have not caught. Now a few moons later after testing and fixing bug issues we open this up to more users for final beta testing. This pool of people range from all walks of life and their tech savviness varies, which is good for us because this will make show us what even the most technologically challenged user may find or have trouble with. A few moons later we have the software/hardware issues all resolved and have even added a few new features that were wish list items outside of the original scope. Since we had the extra time. :) we now have our final product 1.0 ready for shipping.

Fast forward a few months and several marketing wonders later our software is a hit, we have a good market share of people who are using our flagship product "AudibleMelon v1.0". During the testing phase we had many users submit some wishlist items. These are typically "wouldn't if be cool if it could do this" type of items. What comes next of course is scoping out enhancements of version 2.0 of course and maybe a few minor bug fixes for v1.0 :). Fast forward many more moons and we repeat the process above and we release v2.0. The first version was so well recieved and such a good product now we have those previous users upgrading because of our enhancements and also more new users. Our product is doing great in sales and the user feedback is even better. The planning process for the next version begins and we have noticed that our product interface is taking up much of the melon report screen area. In order to incorporate all the possible new features we need to make some serious decisions about what to do.

This is the point where most companies have a hard decision to make, incorporate a new interface or just keep adding more items to an already familiar interface. Myself, I am a firm believer in the KISS theory. What you have never heard of the KISS theory? It basically stands for Keep It Simple Silly (some refer to the last S as Stupid, but we will keep it PC here for now). How this applies to development is that if your software interface is not layed out in a simple easy to understand manner then you are destined for hard times ahead. The use of a good Product Designer is well worth the cost as they can help to simplify software for the users sake which in turns gives you a better interface for your product. This will allow more beginning users to quickly and easily use your product, which in turns sells more product.

Remember the KISS theory as this applies to all aspects of life. The more complicated something gets the harder it is to deal with later.

Happy Rendering...

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