Friday, December 19, 2008

Features V/s Sophistication

Usefulness of software:
Letting the user do what s(he) wants easily and fast.

Features:
Number of activities a user can perform with the software.

Sophistication:
Software intelligence which simplifies user interactions.

Software, like anything else follows the laws of Diminishing Marginal Utility. Here are the graphs as per my experience with software (Not as a software professional but as a simple user)




Features
I think the marginal utility of adding more "features" to the software diminishes at a much higher rate.
  • Firstly because individual users don't use all the features but have to pay the price, in terms of money as well as processing power, disk space, etc.
  • Secondly because users have to deal with all the "genericness" of the software and hence cannot do what they want easily and fast
Best example of such software is (my beloved) Lotus Notes.

Sophistication
The marginal utility of making software intelligent also diminishes albeit at a much slower rate. Google Calendar Quick Entry is a good example of software intelligence. So is GMail's drunk email protection.

What keeps GMail, GMail is that everyone (creators and consumers) abides by the simple rule that GMail is for sending and receiving email. If you want to do something else, you will have to use something else.

There are a couple of software that come to mind which do have a huge feature set but still keep the crux simple enough. Microsoft Word for example has done it rather well in that I can go in and create a simple document as easily as I could when it ran on Windows 3.1

As a business analyst this translates into a simple rule:
Know the crux of your application and stick to it.

When you set out to start a new project, get your users to agree upon the problem to be solved and do whatever it takes to solve that problem; not a penny more, not a penny less.

Software for Everything is as enticing a concept as the Theory for everything. I think there's a reason we haven't found it :-)

4 comments:

  1. I just wanted to say I found your blog and I like it! Keep it up!

    thanks
    --CH

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  2. Thanks CH
    Glad to know that you like the blog.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I am software developer by profession with an MNC in Gurgaon. I got referred to your blog through your fellow TWer. Loved this article.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks Stallion! Glad you enjoyed the article.

    ReplyDelete