Friday, January 30, 2009

Why Design-Thinking hasn't caught on in software

One of my colleagues, Francis Beaudet, just wrote a great article for our Critical Path newsletter called Why is Design Thinking Failing to Penetrate Software Companies? I love his point about how software teams think "Waterfall" when they hear "design up front" and run away screaming.

I'll add another reason why UX and usability isn't catching on at all software companies (or why some are simply paying it lip service) - with most enterprise software, the Buyer is not the User. Large enterprise systems are sold at a C-level or to the IT department, and often the people that have to actually use it, and whose productivity is supposed to go up tenfold for using it, aren't consulted.

On the other hand, in e-commerce, and to some degree SaaS, usability and user experience design is taken very seriously, because even small improvements in usability result in more conversions and more purchases. is a good example - compared to traditional monolithic CRM systems, is infinitely more usable. Why? Because it's sales-people who are buying it, not IT, and if was difficult to use, they wouldn't buy it.

I once visited a large enterprise software company, and they asked me - how do you work? When I explained how we approach a project - observing users, rapid prototyping, testing and validating with users, and so on, their reply was, "that's nice, but we don't have that luxury here. We just hire good designers and make our best guesses".

Enterprise software companies could take a few lessons from .coms and SaaS companies, before their lunch is completely eaten.


Jason Cohen said...

I agree with your reasoning.

My argument against such logic is that although it's the big guys who sign the purchase order, it's the little guys who have to OK the software.

I realize that's often not true, sadly. Still, software that's a genuine pleasure for the end user will be promoted within the organization. We've quite literally had people sell the software for us inside their companies resulting in 6-figure deals we never had to work on.

Yes it's possible to make a top-down sale onto unhappy employees, but it's a lot easier to sell when everyone's happy.

Kensium said...

This is really good post. We are very impressed while reading this article. There is some debate about whether design thinking is simply an extension of traditional design skills or a new discipline. But now software field gives good results and very happy with this. thanks for sharing.

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