Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Software companies becoming more concious of feature bloat

Interesting article about Symantec's Norton suite in the Aug 18 issue of Business Week. The article quotes Rowan Trollope, who runs (or ran) the consumer products group at Symantec - he discovered that his friends turned off most of the features in the Norton suite rather than deal with all the problems it causes. It was a wake-up call, and he set out on a mission to get the bloat out of Norton.

I've had the same experience. Friends and family ask me "Can you look at my computer? It's really slow accessing the web." Inevitably I find out they recently installed Norton and between the anti-fraud, anti-identity-theft, anti-virus, anti-adware, and anti-spyware it's grinding their system to a halt.

Kudos to Rowan to listening directly to customers, but I have to wonder - why did it take a directive from a top executive to embark on trim the fat in Norton, which for the record, is still as bad as it was two years ago? It's painfully obvious to customers, and should be painfully obvious to the support team, the product management team, and the QA team.

Thankfully, we're just at the cusp of getting beyond the GeeWhiz phase in the software industry, where everything is so revolutionary that people will buy it regardless of how painful it is to use. The software industry today is a bit like the car industry of 1920 - the sheer novelty of horseless transportation outweighed the fact that driving most cars was more complicated than brain surgery. Now that there's a computer in most homes, and "Photoshopping" is in the mainstream vernacular, we're very nearly at the point where ease of use, design, and simplicity will win over feature bloat. It can't come soon enough.

No comments: