Learning isn’t free; re-learning is paying the price twice. Many of the people who use what we geeks make would like to re-learn less.
I would love to see a return to a longer turnaround between software packages. There’s an artificial churn happening in how quickly we need to re-learn tools, because companies are learning to move their software products to a subscription basis. I am seriously tempted to jump off that bandwagon, if I were confident I could find a workflow and OS that wouldn’t be painful to re-learn on a bi-annual basis, rather than every six months.
At Apple historically it was like this: If Steve and Jony wanted to make a big change (say, reverse scrolling in Lion), they just told the engineers to do it, and the engineers did it. People complained, but because Steve and Jony had great instincts, usually ended up ahead of where they’d been.
At Google historically, someone proposes a change (say, rework the Gmail compose window), and there’d be agreed-on metrics as to what part of the user experience they were trying to improve, and they’d run big studies, and if the metrics moved the right way, the change rolled out. People complained, but because the data mostly doesn’t lie, usually ended up ahead of where they’d been.
OK, I’m stereotyping: Apple measures things, and Google has Matias Duarte. And crucially, both strategies give the same weight to the interim pain, when people are figuring out how to do again what they could do before: Zero.
This hurts me. I’m an old guy with lots of civilian friends, and when they ping me and say “OMG why did you BREAK my Gmail?!?!” I get pissed, not because they’re ruining my day but because we partly ruined theirs.
Am I a Luddite? Am I just change-averse? Do I want to stick with “good enough” when on the Internet, tomorrow is axiomatically better than today? Do I want us to ignore all the people building better things that people will switch to if we don’t build even better things?
Well, no, mostly. It’s called “software” because it’s soft, you can change it. But I hate to ruin anyone’s day. And I’d like to measure the pain not just the gain.