Think for a moment…

Many of the most important new companies, including Google, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Snapchat, Uber, Airbnb and more are winning not by giving good-enough solutions…, but rather by delivering a superior experience….”
Ben Thompson
, stratechery.com

Think for a moment about the millions of developer hours that have gone into creating today’s OSS tools. Think also for a moment about how many of those tools are really clunky to use, install, configure, administer. How many OSS tools have truck-loads of functionality baked in that is just distracting, features that you’re never going to need or use? Conversely, how many are intuitive enough for a high-school student, let’s say, to use for the first time and become effective within a day of self-driven learning?

Let’s say an OSS came along that had all of the most important features (the ones customers really pay for, not the flashy, nice-to-have features) and offered a vastly superior user experience and user interface. Let’s say it took the market by storm.

With software and cloud delivery, it becomes harder to sustain differentiation. Innovative features and services are readily copied. But have a think about how hard it would be for the incumbent OSS to pick apart the complexity of their code, developed across those millions of developer hours, and throw swathes of it away – overhauling in an attempt to match a truly superior OSS experience.

Can you see why I’m bemused that we’re not replacing developers with more UX experts? We can surely create more differentiation through vastly improved experience than we can in creating new functionality (almost all of the most important functionality has already been developed and we’re now investing developer time on the periphery).

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2 thoughts on “Think for a moment…

  1. Absolutely a valid point of view. This weekend I deposited a cheque at an ATM – the first time I’ve had a cheque in a very long time. From a government department – say no more!

    The striking thing was that the machine asked me to put all my cheques into a slot (I only had one), then it counted them and read the amounts. Job done in seconds. I almost said thank you to the machine. Underneath, the core banking system is much the same (I guess), but what an experience.

    OSS can learn from this, and it inspires me to make my implementations a bit special. I work as a Solution Designer for an OOTB OSS solution, so I can add some layers of “special” myself, and much of my feedback into the product backlog is the same – special experience; the middle works pretty good already.

    Thanks for calling this one out.

  2. Steve,
    I love the banking comparison. Thanks for sharing!

    The same old feature (the cheque) hasn’t changed in decades, but you’re exactly right that the user-experience interacting with it is so much better now. The ATM sucks them into the slot, processes them, recognises characters/amounts, deposits the amount and even outputs a scan of the original cheque. It’s pretty cool, very much more streamlined than the historic approach.

    We’re definitely getting better with catalogs, orchestrators, etc. But we’re still using alarm lists, trouble tickets, work orders, design packs, etc. The OSS world it waiting for new streamlined ways of interacting with out OSS, whether that’s as end-users, internal users, admins, integrators, etc. We can learn from the banking industry, which seems to utilise UX designers a lot more than we do (the Australian banks anyway, I can’t talk for other countries).

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