What is Usability, anyway? (was 'User' Business Analyst - apparently)

18 Nov 2004 - 9:20pm
9 years ago
26 replies
558 reads
Pradyot Rai
2004

> Julian_Orr at peoplesoft.com:
> > In my experience you can "engineer" users its more often called "training"
> > and usually costs 3k/week.

> > Then no matter how crap or complex your system is you can alway "engineer"
> > someone to use it. An averagely crap system requires 1-2 weeks training
> > for end users and 3x that for Admins. Not to mention on the job
> > engineering.

Listera <listera at rcn.com> wrote:
> If I recall correctly, IBM makes about four times as much in
> consulting/services as in software sales. So that would justify IBM's
> business model: selling complexity and charging a premium for services that
> "solve" it.

Interesting segue to what is lurking in my mind since few
days/months/year now -- what is Usability?

Here's the context -- I have been doing websites, intranets, and
consumer portals, but most recently (since last 4 years) have
gainfully serving "enterprise application world". This largely
includes "financial" and "supply chain" domain. And thsi transition
amkes me think, if there is anything "absolute" about usability goals?
And are the two -- parallel web vs. enterprise applications
design/usability same?

In my opinion, goals for enterprise applications design/usability are
aimed to be delivered with "training" package. Ideology of Apple is
been rejected. Users are defined as "power users" or the ones
who-know-what-they-are-doing. Completely against the assumptions that
you make in the context of parallel web -- websites, demos, intranets,
shopping carts etc. Pathetic as it may sound, but is supported by
econimic indicators and rules-of-majority.

Coming back to the issue -- What is wrong (if there's any)? Is there
any issue of immorality in enterprise apps vendors? Is IBM, Microsoft
been unfaithful to common-senses? And so, if I join hands with my
business comrades in maximizing "profits", am I a trial-lawyer kind
designer?

It is interesting to discuss this issue, because IMHO, most of the
designers don't want to accept the business/economic reality of
business when they talk about design agenda.

Common shoot!…
Well, just be careful. I am fragile and has no experience with devil
advocacy :-).

Prady

Comments

18 Nov 2004 - 11:18pm
Dave Malouf
2005

I'll be gentle Prady. ;)

Let's see, where to begin.

The subject line: "What is Usability, anyway?"
Well, it Depends, eh? Well, it shouldn't but it does depend on who you ask.
I'll tell you how I have come to think about it so that it is as discreet
and clear as possible with a limited amount of cross-over to the other parts
of software (I'm using software to stay focused, but obviously this
discussion can contain more than just that) development. Usability is 2
things. It is a quality of software. Can the software be used by those who
are intended to use it to achieve the goals it is designed to help users
achieve. Usability itself sometimes gets broken down into the ability to do
a task, the ability to learn a task, and the quality of desireability in
using that softare. To me the last part is quite different. The other thing
that Usability is, it is the process by which to discover the level of of
the quality of the first definition. ;) I.e. testing. There is the added
analysis piece that usability professionals are sanctioned if not demanded
to do, which to me is a related and separate skill, but inseparable from
"usability" itself. The ability to analyze the testing results is a key
piece, but usually is best supported through an understanding of a
generalized set of research resources, tied to HCI, or published works of
other Usability Professionals.

This definition, allows for usability to be both something done by
specialists, but also a task that can be learned by other user experience
professionals.

Ok, the "enterprise" question. I love thinking about "enterprise" and
x-enterprise software. There are some qualities of enterprise software that
need to be discussed:

1) you can't have enterprise software that is appropriate for ALL customers.
Enterprise softare 9 times out of 10 (when done well) is a platform for
solutions, and NOT a solution in and of itself.

2) enterprise software has to be built to run on multiple platforms (that's
actually the simple of it)

3) enterprise software is not bought by the end-user and quite often the
agenda of the customer and the end-user are in opposition or contradiction
to each other

4) Those who design the software are not the same people who implement the
final design

Ok, that being said (and there are a lot more differences; I could go on
forever);

"To be trained" software. I think Ziya made the best point. They are
designed to be trained b/c of economics, not b/c of design concerns. But I
would say that training is NOT a bad thing. Enterprise software is complex
and there is an element of cultural change that needs to be managed usually
with the install of enterprise projects. But there is a growing move for
companies to reduce training, b/c "services" is seen by investors of public
ES companies as not a long-term option. Being over 50:50 is considered a
higher rate.

I do think that the world you are describing is changing. I know at the
company I used to work for and where I work now, there is a big move away
from anti-usability and more importantly, anti-design. Design is now
becoming a differentiator that has been shown to effect ROI of a total
process. I do not think there is anything intrinsically different between
the enterprise and the rest of the software world. There are some different
parameters to the context of use and the context of total purchasing
environment, but overall, you have a problem that needs an elegantly
designed solution. That's where we come in. ;)

-- dave

18 Nov 2004 - 11:28pm
Listera
2004

Rai stepping headlong into the political economy of the web:

> In my opinion, goals for enterprise applications design/usability are
> aimed to be delivered with "training" package.

Are you saying they are poorly designed on purpose? :-)

> Ideology of Apple is been rejected.

Why? Apple's principal value proposition is tight integration of hw & sw to
reduce technological complexity and enhance usability. Where abuse of
monopoly position doesn't exist Apple has been spectacularly successful:
iPod/iTunes/iTMS.

> Is there any issue of immorality in enterprise apps vendors?

We cannot control the morality of vendors.
(On this very day, Steve Ballmer is touting Windows as a secure platform in
Asia.)
So we must focus on the consumers of their products/services.
We must heap scorn on people who keep renewing their Windows licenses year
after year, for example, and then have the gall to complain about security,
when they have alternatives.
Caveat emptor!

> Is IBM, Microsoft been unfaithful to common-senses?

We're not running IBM or MS. They work to maximize their own profits. If we
can take care of our own houses, we'll be fine.

> And so, if I join hands with my business comrades in maximizing "profits", am
> I a trial-lawyer kind designer?

We can profit while we're serving design sensibilities. Example? Apple.

(BTW, God forbid, if you're ever in an accident or legal difficulty, you'll
look at your lawyer in a different light.)

Ziya
Nullius in Verba

19 Nov 2004 - 5:10am
Stewart Dean
2004

Hi,

I'm new to this group having recently gone delving for good groups about
user experience (as opposed to information architecture or usability).

If find this discussion facinating. I have dealt with many large companies
who on one hand produce world leading software, hardware and financial
systems and on the other hand cannot appear to get their own internal
systems in line. Most often i deal with public facing websites - or
brochureware as it's affectionaly called.

Time and time again I see large companies suffer from major scale
inefficencies and incredible costs around the simplest of tasks. From
simple requirements it is the norm to see large, overly complex and under
featured solutions arrise time and time again. What I doubt is that this is
intentional but more the nature of the beast.

So what happens when 'outsiders' join the mix? This we all know to well. We
have to understand what is what, what limitations are in place and then look
at the political and business connitations there are for changing even the
smallest thing. Often because of the organisation one person only ever holds
part of the puzzle and it may take a small team of people in a large
organisation to tell you what one person can do in a small company.

For this reason, I propose, small companies can build better and more
efficent business solutions (software, web etc) than large companies.

Then comes the other huge problems - silos, department budgets, arbitary
divisions of responsibility and not to mention the huge resistance to change
factor you get with large companies.

The solution may well lie in best of breed knowledge management systems
(which in it's self is hindered by the above). Or it's running projects
differently - where key stake holders are questioned but have no sign off -
so no group meetings where five different people are discussion where
exactly the buy button should be on the page. Unfortunatly for the risk
adverse this doesnt fit, even if you point out that overly complex system of
sign off and desicsion making is in it's self a huge risk factor to any
project.

Usability I considered to be a nice idea often much loved by more
academically minded people but ultimately the user experience is not about
the must usable solution but the one that can make the greatest compromise
between what the users want and what the business wants.

Stewart Dean

>From: Rai <pradyotrai at gmail.com>
>Reply-To: Rai <pradyotrai at gmail.com>
>To: discuss at interactiondesigners.com
>Subject: [ID Discuss] What is Usability,anyway? (was 'User' Business
>Analyst - apparently)
>Date: Thu, 18 Nov 2004 21:20:45 -0500
>
>[Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]
>
> > Julian_Orr at peoplesoft.com:
> > > In my experience you can "engineer" users its more often called
>"training"
> > > and usually costs 3k/week.
>
> > > Then no matter how crap or complex your system is you can alway
>"engineer"
> > > someone to use it. An averagely crap system requires 1-2 weeks
>training
> > > for end users and 3x that for Admins. Not to mention on the job
> > > engineering.
>
>Listera <listera at rcn.com> wrote:
> > If I recall correctly, IBM makes about four times as much in
> > consulting/services as in software sales. So that would justify IBM's
> > business model: selling complexity and charging a premium for services
>that
> > "solve" it.
>
>Interesting segue to what is lurking in my mind since few
>days/months/year now -- what is Usability?
>
>Here's the context -- I have been doing websites, intranets, and
>consumer portals, but most recently (since last 4 years) have
>gainfully serving "enterprise application world". This largely
>includes "financial" and "supply chain" domain. And thsi transition
>amkes me think, if there is anything "absolute" about usability goals?
>And are the two -- parallel web vs. enterprise applications
>design/usability same?
>
>In my opinion, goals for enterprise applications design/usability are
>aimed to be delivered with "training" package. Ideology of Apple is
>been rejected. Users are defined as "power users" or the ones
>who-know-what-they-are-doing. Completely against the assumptions that
>you make in the context of parallel web -- websites, demos, intranets,
>shopping carts etc. Pathetic as it may sound, but is supported by
>econimic indicators and rules-of-majority.
>
>Coming back to the issue -- What is wrong (if there's any)? Is there
>any issue of immorality in enterprise apps vendors? Is IBM, Microsoft
>been unfaithful to common-senses? And so, if I join hands with my
>business comrades in maximizing "profits", am I a trial-lawyer kind
>designer?
>
>It is interesting to discuss this issue, because IMHO, most of the
>designers don't want to accept the business/economic reality of
>business when they talk about design agenda.
>
>Common shoot!…
>Well, just be careful. I am fragile and has no experience with devil
>advocacy :-).
>
>Prady
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>Interaction Design Discussion List
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>to change your options (unsubscribe or set digest):
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19 Nov 2004 - 10:40am
Pradyot Rai
2004

Listera <listera at rcn.com> wrote:

> Are you saying they are poorly designed on purpose? :-)

I did not pose a common sense question :p

But, you are a brilliant person. Go back to your own quip – IBM
consulting dollars vs. license sales data, and also look at Apple's
market share, etc. They must tell you something, that "design must be
derived from context"?

To clarify again, the question is about the higher decision making and
setting expectations/goals/objectives for the design to achieve. As a
designer and a professional, I always believe one will do the best to
help what ever the objectives are. You will never deliver a poor
design. I am in pain seeing that designers are burning out by creating
their self inflicting goals and not complying to business reality.

Take a look at this problem and see where I need your attention/help --

Suppose you are invited by management group to come and talk about how
can they improve one of their very key application. It is sold to
enterprises and not directly to those who use it. It has been 3 years
since it was first launched and management thinks that it is time to
revisit design. The first challenge for you is to define the "design"
objectives/goals. You are given access to "users" and "partners". In
your site visits, you go and hangout with users, and have good meeting
with partner's management team as well. You have spend good amount of
time, and have this result with you -- Users are really happy with the
system. Their incentive is to accomplish their job and bag the bonus.
They will master any damn system. But you also find that they are
genuinely happy with current state of the system. On the other hand
your partners are not really pleased. They kick your butt for reasons
completely new. They want the system to be so flexible so that they
can control the "usage" the way they want!… and they won't mind
spending $$$ on initial training, customization or customer support
stuffs Because it makes sense from their ROI point of view.

You have fixed time, budget and resources. You have to set
expectations to really deliver a "cool" product or think
strategically.

Questions --

Who is the user here? Whose will picture on your key personas?
Should ethnographic research drive your way or you side with overall strategy?
Is their anything you see that you as designer can do to be help here?
Or would you leave the room?
Also, my original question -- What may be morally confusing thouhgts
in your mind?

Welcome to enterprise application world. Nobody asked you to deliver
inferior design. You are of your own. You have to define your
role/goal and the whole 9 yards. You will be evaluated on how well you
balance/maintain the business objectives.

> Why? Apple's principal value proposition is tight integration of hw & sw to
> reduce technological complexity and enhance usability. Where abuse of
> monopoly position doesn't exist Apple has been spectacularly successful:
> iPod/iTunes/iTMS.

>From economics/marketing/strategy point of views, market is not
homogenous entity. There are different problems and different
contexts. What works for Apple may not work for others, and be aware
of this fact when you are advising the businesses. Apples and oranges
must not be mixed/confused/compared.

I am not the advocating Microsoft and IBM for their business strategy,
because I don't know anything about it. But the fact that IBM is so
good with their basic research, or Ease of Use, yet can't apply them
in market place, should tell us something.

> > Is there any issue of immorality in enterprise apps vendors?
>
> We cannot control the morality of vendors.
> (On this very day, Steve Ballmer is touting Windows as a secure platform in
> Asia.)
> So we must focus on the consumers of their products/services.

True. And then the definition of "consumers" becomes critical. They
are not always what we want to march for.

I am with your side, sentimentally, emotionally and deep from my
values. However, it does not make sense from business perspective.
Businesses sole aim is to maximize profit. Unless they are monopolist,
immoral or gaming the market place, no law can bust them.

Having said that, I know as a designer we have responsibility towards
social reforms and changing the mind sets. But this profession also
needs to understand the real life constraints in which business
operates. Businesses today needs more from us than what we assume with
our biases.

> We can profit while we're serving design sensibilities. Example? Apple.

A complete outlier to the context :-)

Prady

19 Nov 2004 - 10:46am
Pradyot Rai
2004

> Stewart Dean:
> Usability I considered to be a nice idea often much loved by more
> academically minded people but ultimately the user experience is not about
> the must usable solution but the one that can make the greatest compromise
> between what the users want and what the business wants.

Bingo!
You summerized it really well.

Prady

19 Nov 2004 - 10:51am
Dave Malouf
2005

> > Stewart Dean:
> > Usability I considered to be a nice idea often much loved by more
> > academically minded people but ultimately the user
> experience is not
> > about the must usable solution but the one that can make
> the greatest
> > compromise between what the users want and what the business wants.
>
> Bingo!
> You summerized it really well.

I'm not sure I would say "Bingo!" here.
The reason is that this is a description of the way it is, not the way we
want it to be.

1. usability is in the interest of business. Placing them in opposition to
each other negates this. The total user experience is vital for the success
for a good business. This is the premise by which we all stand or die on
together.

2. That is not say that there are not real world parameters that create a
tension between the two, but I would not caused this tension being about
what "business wants", but just what economics dictates. There are only so
many hours, dollars and bodies you can throw at any given project. This
economic reality is not a business want as much as it is not a
usability/design want. But business folks seem to be more adept at
compromise in this regards, so it feels as if business is driving this.

The reality is, that all products and all aspects of products are
prioritized along this axis as well as along the user experience, technology
capabilities of the organization, cultural change factors and many more.

-- dave

19 Nov 2004 - 11:14am
Pradyot Rai
2004

> ...That is not say that there are not real world parameters that create a
> tension between the two, but I would not caused this tension being about
> what "business wants", but just what economics dictates.

They are not separable in my mind. Business will "want" what bottom
line dictates, ecominic indicator being one of them.

> There are only so
> many hours, dollars and bodies you can throw at any given project. This
> economic reality is not a business want as much as it is not a
> usability/design want.

Why? What value system/indicators drives this "want", which is against
the reality? Doesn't constraints interent to the problem we want to
solve, as business or designer dudes?

> But business folks seem to be more adept at
> compromise in this regards, so it feels as if business is driving this.

:-) [1]
And we can learn something from them.

Thanks, you were gentle.

Prady

[1] I wanted to say "Bingo" this time too.

19 Nov 2004 - 11:33am
Dave Malouf
2005

> They are not separable in my mind. Business will "want" what
> bottom line dictates, ecominic indicator being one of them.

Bottomline is seldom the ONLY business driver.
Business wants happy customers, wants marketshare, wants brand equity, etc.
These sometimes go in conflict w/ "bottomline" which is why many companies
are quite successful w/ littl or no profit, even for sustained periods at a
time.

Another reason "the bottomline" is not an issue is growth.

-- dave

19 Nov 2004 - 11:50am
Lada Gorlenko
2004

R> Welcome to enterprise application world. Nobody asked you to deliver
R> inferior design. You are of your own. You have to define your
R> role/goal and the whole 9 yards. You will be evaluated on how well you
R> balance/maintain the business objectives.

You have 2 1/2 UI (design, usability, etc.) heads on a 200+ staff project
(nation-wide custom-built enterprise app for a government department).
You have been invited to do UI design on release 2 (release 1, done by a
previous contractor, reports negative user satisfaction, but no one
bothers much). You analyse, you come up with a new design, you do
early tests, you calculate cost savings. You say you can reduce call
handling time and deliver close to 30% of staff reduction (call centre
operators), all due to the science of usable design. You sketch, draw
charts, and present to project managers and client execs. On the second
slide they start fiddling with their pens, on the forth they stop looking
at you. When you finish, they call a coffee break. A guy high up the
project chain quietly invites you to a corner. "Er... you see, we think
you've done a great job. I personally like it a lot. But... you have
wrong premises. The customer doesn't want state of the art in usability.
They don't need efficiency that will cut down their people. They are
government, they can't reduce shop-floor staff, especially these days."
You stare, you gulp, you smile and apologise. Well, if you are there to
care about the needs of the customer, do it properly.

Welcome to the world of Big Sharks ripping off their clients.

Lada

19 Nov 2004 - 12:04pm
Dan Saffer
2003

On Nov 19, 2004, at 11:50 AM, Lada Gorlenko wrote:

>
> They don't need efficiency that will cut down their people. They are
> government, they can't reduce shop-floor staff, especially these days.

Interesting Bruce Sterling pointed a similar thing out about a year ago
in his book Tomorrow Now:

"End users don't want to solve problems. A solved problem is actively
dangerous for them. Any end user with a permanent solution has lost a
job...This also explains why end users don't settle for cheap, simple,
fully usable software. After all, if software is simple and useable,
then anyone can use it. End users...can't afford to be just anybody,
because this is a swift ticket to poverty."

http://www.odannyboy.com/blog/archives/001011.html

Flame on...

Dan

19 Nov 2004 - 12:24pm
Lada Gorlenko
2004

DS> End users...can't afford to be just anybody,
DS> because this is a swift ticket to poverty."

And to poverty of service (application) providers - they have nothing
to improve in their designs and solutions.

If my logic doesn't betray me, we've got either solved problems and
tickets to poverty for everyone involved, or purposefully bugged
solutions, well-off users, and our timetables booked for years to come.
Nice choice :-)

Lada

19 Nov 2004 - 12:26pm
Pradyot Rai
2004

Dan Saffer <dan at odannyboy.com> wrote:
> Interesting Bruce Sterling pointed a similar thing out about a year ago
> in his book Tomorrow Now:
>
> "End users don't want to solve problems. A solved problem is actively
> dangerous for them. Any end user with a permanent solution has lost a
> job...This also explains why end users don't settle for cheap, simple,
> fully usable software. After all, if software is simple and useable,
> then anyone can use it. End users...can't afford to be just anybody,
> because this is a swift ticket to poverty."

A very similar thing I witnessed in the days when I was working on
Supply Chain Optimization and Planning product (CMU spin-off). We
developed a "usable" product, because the management folks demanded
usable product, cool looks, killer ease of use. They wanted to
differenciate their product with likes of "I2 factory Planner",
"Manugistic" and others in the play feild.

At our first, and very crucial Proof-of-Concept deal with Caterpiller,
the complete goal/objective for product Design/Usability was thrashed
by some guy who was boss of S&OP at Caterpiller, and supposedly was
sponsoring our proof-of-concept.

His concern was, "I am the one who wants to control the process/usage.
I am the one whom my guys come to ask questions. Your product looks
like anybody can run the application and do Budget, and Supply Chain
distribution planning... PHD are not needed..." [this is not verbatim,
but esentially captures his sentiments]

I am not telling you what happened and how tough it was to swallow.
But that was good reality check for my designer ego.

Prady

19 Nov 2004 - 12:43pm
Lada Gorlenko
2004

R> I am not telling you what happened and how tough it was to swallow.
R> But that was good reality check for my designer ego.

R> Prady

Prady, the question is 'what do you do next?'. How many times do you
have to swallow before reaching the level of experience (fame?
authority? respect?) where you can afford to cherry pick your
clients?

Lada

19 Nov 2004 - 12:47pm
Julian_Orr at p...
2004

To be fair I think a significant percentage of system cost (read potential
savings) is not as much in optimization of day to day processes, but in the
implementation (specifically connecting system pieces never "designed" to
work with one another) and maintentance (though this could be called a day
to day task)

I think one of the themes I see is "SW/HW/SW design integration
significantly reducing costs vs, projects where a single front end has to
be compatible with multiple platforms and layers"

How does a "Designer" act on this theme assuming its true? Business
success would seem to indicate that specialization is key and
partnering/business ecosystems will develop as a result. (implying that
total system design is not practical) I tend to beleive that this is
somewhat of a tech-maturity issue and given my realm of expertise, I think
that this belongs to true "System Architects" vs an Interaction Designer.
(ducking)

Cheers,

Julian_Orr at Peoplesoft.com
-------303-334-5257-----------

"Entropy Increases"

|---------+----------------------------------------------------------------------->
| | "Lada Gorlenko" <lada at acm.org> |
| | Sent by: |
| | discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactionde|
| | signers.com |
| | |
| | |
| | 11/19/2004 10:24 AM |
| | Please respond to "Lada Gorlenko" |
|---------+----------------------------------------------------------------------->
>----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| |
| To: "'Interaction Designers'" <discuss at interactiondesigners.com> |
| cc: (bcc: Julian Orr/PeopleSoft) |
| Subject: Re[4]: [ID Discuss] What is Usability, anyway? (was 'User' Business Analyst -|
| apparently) |
>----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

[Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]

DS> End users...can't afford to be just anybody,
DS> because this is a swift ticket to poverty."

And to poverty of service (application) providers - they have nothing
to improve in their designs and solutions.

If my logic doesn't betray me, we've got either solved problems and
tickets to poverty for everyone involved, or purposefully bugged
solutions, well-off users, and our timetables booked for years to come.
Nice choice :-)

Lada

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19 Nov 2004 - 1:07pm
Pradyot Rai
2004

Lada Gorlenko <lada at acm.org> wrote:

> Prady, the question is 'what do you do next?'. How many times do you
> have to swallow before reaching the level of experience (fame?
> authority? respect?) where you can afford to cherry pick your
> clients?

Lada,
There's no mantra, or I am not aware of any. Answer is more in
philosophy or social sceinces than what Design/Usability education can
guide us. What I am trying for myself, is not to hug my potty any
more... Well, I am trying not to :-)

Prady

19 Nov 2004 - 12:07pm
david gee
2004

David Heller wrote:

>2. That is not say that there are not real world parameters that create a
>tension between the two, but I would not caused this tension being about
>what "business wants", but just what economics dictates.
>
>
---
Besides economic considerations, there are other factors which need to
be balanced against user experience. In enterprise applications, the
needs of the customer (the entity purchasing the application) are often
very different from the needs of the user (the entity interacting with
the application). Business Analysts, Product Managers, et al, generally
come at needs from a customer perspective, whereas most of us in the
design sphere (interaction design, information architecture, usability
analysis) are focused on the end-user. Visual designers have similar
tensions between marketing requirements and user-centered design.

The end user wants to use the application to accomplish his task as
quickly as possible, make himself look good, and eat lunch. The customer
wants accountability, complex permissioning systems, security, and
advanced workflow management -- all of which are, by their nature,
obstructions to getting the task done as easily as possible. So here's
the way I see it - the BAs push for all the customer requirements. The
usability analysts show the impact this has on productivity and user
acceptance. I've always viewed my primary task as balancing the two -
creating a system which allows for the customer's needs, but has minimum
impact on the end user.

This gets really hairy when you're delivering one system which needs to
cater to the whims of very different customers. BAs and PMs often fall
into the 'customer of the week' trap, demanding that you satisfy every
whim of a potential large client, often at the expense of your existing
userbase. Once you get into creating large systems with accountability
and workflow mechanisms flexible enough to scale from small mom-and-pop
customers to large, beaureaucratic multinationals, economic pressures
really begin to take their toll.

david gee

19 Nov 2004 - 4:37pm
Listera
2004

Rai:
> But, you are a brilliant person. Go back to your own quip ­ IBM
> consulting dollars vs. license sales data, and also look at Apple's
> market share, etc.

Hmm. IBM once owned the PC business ("IBM-compatible") and wanted to rule
the desktop OS business (OS/2 Warp). They managed to waste it away, today
IBM is not even in the desktop PC/OS business. From micro-payment systems to
hw system architectures, IBM's corporate history is full of examples of its
inability to understand its market and, ultimately, user needs to create
stuff people want to buy.

Unlike IBM, Apple still has a PC business and has its own OS. Apple and IBM
are not direct competitors, as Apple doesn't play in the enterprise, except
for XServe. And, like I said, in markets where an illegally obtained and
leveraged monopoly is not dominant, Apple does extraordinarily well, in hw
or sw. It's been the best S&P stock this year and one of only two profitable
major PC manufacturers. It grew its iPod and Apple Store businesses from
zero to $1billion+ each in <3 years, both unique in American corporate
history and in spite of clueless industry punditry.

All this would border on religious irrelevance if it weren't for the fact
that Apple has managed to do this with market focus, user focus and design
focus, our topic here.

> They must tell you something, that "design must be
> derived from context"?

It tells me that design, usability and customer focus can be extraordinarily
profitable.
>
> Suppose you are invited by management group to come and talk about how
> can they improve one of their very key application. It is sold to
> enterprises and not directly to those who use it. It has been 3 years
> since it was first launched and management thinks that it is time to
> revisit design. The first challenge for you is to define the "design"
> objectives/goals.

Well, you describe what I actually do for a living. :-) But I often start
one layer up and (re)consider business goals before I consider design goals.

> Who is the user here?

The one who actually uses the app. The other is my customer.

> What may be morally confusing thouhgts in your mind?

You know, in NYC, we have a lot of online marketing companies. I've been
approached about a number of lucrative but dubious products/strategies over
the years. It doesn't take me long to turn them down.

As an outsider, I rarely get into these moral dilemmas. I know who pays my
checks. But, generally speaking, those who are bent on screwing their users
wouldn't be soliciting the help of someone like me.

> What works for Apple may not work for others

I maintain that design, usability and customer focus will work virtually
every time and for anybody. Now, it may take many different disguises, but
you can't sustain a business by going against these fundamentals for a long
time.

> But the fact that IBM is so good with their basic research, or Ease of Use,
> yet can't apply them in market place, should tell us something.

Yes, it tells us that IBM lost a multi-gazillion dollar business to others.

> I am with your side, sentimentally, emotionally and deep from my
> values. However, it does not make sense from business perspective.
> Businesses sole aim is to maximize profit.

Again, look at at Apple. Design & Profits, beautiful harmony. :-)
Then look at a company run by midgets, like Gateway. Then tell me design
doesn't sell!

> Businesses today needs more from us than what we assume with
> our biases.

I agree.

>> We can profit while we're serving design sensibilities. Example? Apple.
>
> A complete outlier to the context :-)

When Sony has begun to outright copy Apple's business and design practices,
you know we're not talking about a unique case any longer. ;-)

Ziya
Nullius in Verba

19 Nov 2004 - 5:46pm
Pradyot Rai
2004

Listera, I have deep regards to your point of views and conviction. I
just want to understand how some of the facts align with what we are
discussing.

> > But the fact that IBM is so good with their basic research, or Ease of Use,
> > yet can't apply them in market place, should tell us something.

Listera:
> Yes, it tells us that IBM lost a multi-gazillion dollar business to others.

I need to understand what are you implying?
PC market? If that was your point then it talks something good about
IBM. The landscape of computer industry exists because IBM did not go
for patenting of PC. They lost, for all good to the
market/competition.

On the other hand, look what Apple decided -- to maintain close grip
on their proprietary. They have their box and they have their OS. At
what cost? Look at their market share.

There's some correlation between acts of IBM and Apple in 80's. IBM
took a stance to increase the pie, while Apple embraced the fixed pie.
To me, this is indicator that their market share from OS as well as
computers steadily fell. If this is what you were trying to arrive at,
than, it helps the point I am making -- if you look at design too
closely, and not understand business reality, you can't go too far.
IBM's loss of capitalizing on the market was their own stupidity (or
lack of competence on PC market) but that does not translate to
Apple's intelligent move. Prove me wrong! Or did I miss your point
completely?

> Again, look at at Apple. Design & Profits, beautiful harmony. :-)
> Then look at a company run by midgets, like Gateway. Then tell me design
> doesn't sell!

What you mean? Apple is never compared with kinds of Gateways!
Compare them with likes of MS, IBM, HP, Adobe, because they had same
kind of opportunity.

> When Sony has begun to outright copy Apple's business and design practices,
> you know we're not talking about a unique case any longer. ;-)

True, I agree. But that is still a consumer market. Both are
apples-apples. But I doubt if same can be applied to IBM or the
enterprise world we are talking.

Purely out of curocity, how far down is Sony's VAIO's market share
compared to Apple's. I am trying to search data from the web, but am
not getting any site that can tell me.

Prady

19 Nov 2004 - 5:55pm
Chris Ryan
2004

On Nov 19, 2004, at 2:46 PM, Rai wrote:

> On the other hand, look what Apple decided -- to maintain close grip
> on their proprietary. They have their box and they have their OS. At
> what cost? Look at their market share.

I think this is an incorrect bit of conventional wisdom, and I haven't
seen a better analysis of it than John Gruber's recent piece:

http://daringfireball.net/2004/08/parlay

Chris

19 Nov 2004 - 6:37pm
Pradyot Rai
2004

Chris Ryan <chris at redrooffs.com> wrote:
> > On the other hand, look what Apple decided -- to maintain close grip
> > on their proprietary. They have their box and they have their OS. At
> > what cost? Look at their market share.
>
> I think this is an incorrect bit of conventional wisdom, and I haven't
> seen a better analysis of it than John Gruber's recent piece:
>
> http://daringfireball.net/2004/08/parlay

A peice from the same article --

"Obviously, the idea [of licencing Mac] was ultimately rejected. Apple
was earning startlingly high profit margins on Mac hardware at the
time, and they didn't want to share. The competition from licensing
clearly would have driven margins down, but the potential for
increased volume could have driven overall profits up. Would it have
worked? Maybe — but even in hindsight it can't be deemed a sure thing.
Claiming that it "definitely" would have worked is bluster. It was not
at all a sure thing, and more to the point at hand, it was not all
like the software-only licensing plan that turned Microsoft into a
goliath..."

In my opinion, author is just trying to justify Apple's lack of
business acumen, and the lost opportunity. Assumption is -- what
happened to IBM could have become Apple's fate too. I completely
disagree.

IBM lost because they can't believe that PC can be sold to
individuals, homemakes, etc., while Steve Jobs started assembling
Mac's with this dream. Lack of foresight killed IBM's opportunity and
lack of business guts reduced the Apple's pie further down. I am not
favouring anybody here.

But Hey, this was good article. Thanks.

Do you have any other one which talks about how much IBM lost by
licensing deal. Listera says "multi-gazillion dollar business", which
I want to see thru' same lenses. Some folks says that they still are
the best in their h/w segments -- Thinkpad being one. Some also says
that they should have not even made this bit, without bringing PC for
cloning, or outsourcing the OS deal to MS. But may be just me!

Prady

19 Nov 2004 - 7:06pm
Listera
2004

Rai:
> I need to understand what are you implying? PC market?

Not just the PC hardware market, but the ability to shape and drive the
entire PC industry.

> The landscape of computer industry exists because IBM did not go
> for patenting of PC.

How? They didn't invent the PC.

> They lost, for all good to the market/competition.

But not for IBM.

> On the other hand, look what Apple decided -- to maintain close grip
> on their proprietary.

Like Microsoft? How many OS vendors are there in the Wintel world?

> They have their box and they have their OS. At what cost? Look at their market
> share.

What exactly is market share? In most markets Apple competes in, they have
double-digit market share, in many core markets they simply dominate. In
sub-$500 computer markets (iPod) their market share is 65%-90%.

If you mean they aren't competitive in markets for cash registers, POS,
accounting, factory floor, etc. Sure. They don't sell into those markets at
all. So what? Would you rather see Apple bleed in these commodity markets,
or see Intel, Microsoft, Sony and the rest of the PC/electronics world try
to catch up to Apple?

> If you look at design too closely, and not understand business reality, you
> can't go too far.

We agree on this.

> IBM's loss of capitalizing on the market was their own stupidity (or
> lack of competence on PC market) but that does not translate to
> Apple's intelligent move. Prove me wrong! Or did I miss your point
> completely?

Yes.

Just consider this case: Do you think IBM could possibly put together the
deals with the labels, create iTunes, iTMS, iPod and the marketing/branding
to, in effect, upend the legal digital music business? Not in a million
years. This is a multibillion dollar business (as big as any other
"enterprise" effort by IBM or others) that's nowhere near its saturation
point.

> But I doubt if same can be applied to IBM or the enterprise world we are
> talking.

I won't get into it here, but this seemingly unbridgeable dichotomy between
consumer and enterprise markets wrt technology is absolutely crumbling. For
technology, consumer market is much bigger and, from GPUs to mobile devices,
has begun to firmly drive innovation. That's where the future is. Enterprise
will be doing catch up soon. Perhaps I'll write about this some time.

> Purely out of curocity, how far down is Sony's VAIO's market share
> compared to Apple's.

I'm not sure. I started my career working with Sony: they will never succeed
in the PC business.

Ziya
Nullius in Verba

19 Nov 2004 - 7:23pm
Listera
2004

Rai:

> Apple's lack of business acumen

Let's cut to the chase: The company that made by far the most money in the
PC business has been Microsoft. We do have voluminous court records to show
*how* they did it. You consider that " business acumen"?

Ziya
Nullius in Verba

19 Nov 2004 - 9:24pm
Pradyot Rai
2004

Listera <listera at rcn.com> wrote:

> Rai:
> > Apple's lack of business acumen
>
> Let's cut to the chase: The company that made by far the most money in the
> PC business has been Microsoft. We do have voluminous court records to show
> *how* they did it. You consider that " business acumen"?

That was the strong word I ever used against Apple. I slap myself, as
I type... But that was in context of their business strategy against
whom they lost big time. This was no way putting them against
Microsoft's business practices. That will be insulting (in the context
of what we are discusing here). Apple is a great product. They are the
best patrons of design. But you don't want me to appologize for their
business acumen, do you?

All the stats that you have presented are about their recent
incarnation. What about their being the poineer in the concept of user
friendliness, having one of the most stable OS, having 10 years lead
translate into(?)... and still owning less than 5% of market.

They are sure best at innovation, but are poor at managing/maintaining
leadership. I must have messed up with the word "business acumen", but
please give me the right word.

Prady

19 Nov 2004 - 10:36pm
Listera
2004

Rai:

> All the stats that you have presented are about their recent incarnation.

Yes, they are. Before we turn this into a religious argument and really turn
off the rest of the list, the reason I cited Apple as an example is this:
more than any other sizeable tech company on the planet, Apple strives to
put design and user experience smack in the center of their corporate
mission. Nobody else even comes close. The lesson for us (ideal it may be in
some instances) is that this is not only sustainable but actually hugely
profitable. Good design is good business. We don't have to excuse for good
design. We can point skeptics to the army of "iPod killers" who need to
repent and lick their wounds.

Design => Profits.

Ziya
Nullius in Verba

19 Nov 2004 - 10:53pm
Pradyot Rai
2004

> ... the reason I cited Apple as an example is this:
> more than any other sizeable tech company on the planet, Apple strives to
> put design and user experience smack in the center of their corporate
> mission. Nobody else even comes close...

Hmmm... For the last time, IMHO that was "outlier" to the context of
enterprise apps. world :-)

Prady

19 Nov 2004 - 11:33pm
Jared M. Spool
2003

At 11:33 AM 11/19/2004, David Heller wrote:
>Bottomline is seldom the ONLY business driver.
>Business wants happy customers, wants marketshare, wants brand equity, etc.
>These sometimes go in conflict w/ "bottomline" which is why many companies
>are quite successful w/ littl or no profit, even for sustained periods at a
>time.
>
>Another reason "the bottomline" is not an issue is growth.

<business-lecture>

I think this is one of the great misconceptions of business. All of these
items (marketshare, happy customers, brand equity) *are* bottom line issues.

The bottom line (two words) refers to bottom line on an income statement
(which is very similar to a Profit & Loss statement). Income statements are
a reflection of income and expenses over time.

When referring to a bottom line, it is correct to refer to the time period
that it pertains to.

When you talk about long-term growth, you have a long term income
statement. The bottom line of that income statement will need to account
for the results of happy customers, market share, and brand equity.

If increased customer happiness, market share, and brand equity do not
produce bottom line results over the long term, investment in them was a
waste of money. Period.

</business-lecture>

Jared

Jared M. Spool, Founding Principal
User Interface Engineering
4 Lookout Lane, Unit 4d
Middleton, MA 01949
978 777-9123
jspool at uie.com
http://www.uie.com

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