Thursday, July 26, 2012

Designing for the 80%

On Monday, Greg Keizer of Computerworld blogged about a survey indicating 25% of computer users see no benefit to upgrading their software. The results of the survey are not surprising. New versions of software are not designed to please every user. In fact, they can't be. Designing new releases in an attempt to please every user will result in pleasing none of them completely. I know, I have been guilty of that in past updates to Real Studio. It took me years to learn that you can't please everybody. Steve Jobs said that Apple designs for 80% of the users. Apparently, Apple sees that as the sweet spot. That seems reasonable to me and 80% is pretty close to the 75% of users who apparently do find benefit in upgrading their software.

In the post, Jono Xia, a former Mozilla employee, claimed that upgrades are often productivity sinkholes. Jono was most critical of updates that alter the user interface. Though these criticisms might sometimes be justified, when they are, it's not because the software is being upgraded, but because the upgrade is not aimed at truly solving problems users have. Sometimes altering the user interface is exactly what is needed.

Having said that, most developers would be quite happy if 75% of their users upgraded. Trying to solve enough problems so that more than 75% of your users will upgrade sounds unrealistic to me.

5 comments:

Bob Keeney said...

The real question is are you aiming for the right 80%?

Geoff Perlman said...

That's a good question. This post is assuming you have generally identified that right type of user for your software.

Jason said...

We somehow need a way of implementing all the features users feel the software "should have", post production, without having to upgrade.. ;)

Dale Arends said...

One drawback of upgrades is the inclination to include features that dilute the purpose of the product. How many people use even 50% of the features in Microsoft Word? Upgrades that promote the base usability of the product are fine; upgrades to answer "wouldn't it be nice if..." need careful consideration before implementing. In all, upgrades should never degrade the product's usability.

DMW said...

Perhaps it should be 80 % of the users who intend to upgrade?