How to (not?) version your product

I spend a fairly decent amount of time working with marketing teams. Mostly, the impact on a product UX is minimal. It’s typically all about branding, but sometimes the most heated discussions and debates occur when the topic is versioning. Believe it or not, versioning can have a big impact on UX. Recently, for a new major product feature, there’s been a lot of back-and-forth over whether it’s a major release or a minor release, and what the heck to call the release! There’s all this talk about “have to be consistent” and “we called the last one 13.2 so this one has to be 14” and so forth. Meh.

During this intellectual discourse (ha!), I’m reminded of how one software goliath has versioned the last few releases of one of their more widely-used product offerings (forgive me if the order isn’t 100% accurate, it really doesn’t matter):

  • Windows 3.1
  • Windows 95
  • Windows Me
  • Windows NT
  • Windows 2000
  • Windows XP
  • Windows Vista
  • Windows 7

Well, that’s consistent. Any questions?

The iPad Age

Over the weekend, some of my friends and co-workers took delivery of their personal slice of the first shipment of Apple’s new iPad. (Not me, I’ve got multiple kids that need braces. Could buy a lot of iPads with that kinda cash.)


Apple iPad

They’ve been kind enough to let me have a little quality time with their new toys, and I really appreciate it. Before it arrived, I thought it would be a game changer. Maybe not completely revolutionary, but certainly evolutionary. At least, it’d make the coolest electronic portfolio for the photographers/videographers/designers out there. And, a damn nice bookreader slash picture frame.

But now that I’ve been able to use the shiny new gadget, I might have actually underestimated it. Not the iPad itself, but what the iPad means for the future. For the future of user experiences.

It just works. A kid – a young kid – could figure it out and use this without any assistance at all. No bloat, no OS configuration, just get the app you need, quick and cheap, and go. All about the content and convenience (instead of the power) for the consumer.

It’s about touch, too. There’s no mouse, there’s no keyboard. Do you think any of today’s iPod touch, iPhone and iPad kids are going to suddenly decide to go buy a mouse? Those days are almost gone. Direct (touch) interfaces are the future.

So, maybe the iPad itself won’t be a world changer, but once again, Apple has created a little more of the shape of the future.

Gartner, Flash and the Enterprise

Nope, not a Star Trek reference.

Gartner‘s Ray Valdes has a recent blog post on the future of HTML5 and Flash, brought to light most recently by rumors of no Flash support in the iPad. The post was interesting, but the very last bullet was the one that really hit home:

Lastly, the average enterprise won’t effectively use Flash or HTML5 or any other shiny new UI technology. Because the root problem as I see it is not lack of powerful UI technology. Instead, the root causes for sub-optimal user experience have to do with lack of appropriate process, and governance, and lack of a genuine commitment to a quality user experience. Such a commitment would lead organizations to adopt a user-centered usability-oriented development process. Rather than taking these steps, we see a lot of projects that are “stakeholder driven” (i.e., driven by internal politics). Very few organizations center development around user needs by relying on objectively measured data about user behavior. Most enterprises don’t care enough about the user experience to change their habits (developer-driven, vendor-driven, stakeholder-driven). The principles of creating effective user experiences are well-known among successful external-facing ecommerce or consumer sites such as Amazon, Ebay, Expedia or Facebook. Unfortunately, it will likely be a long time before these principles become part of the average enterprise skillset.