Exactly what is an OSS’s “intuition age”

I’m currently reading a book entitled, “Jony Ive. The genius behind Apple’s greatest products.”

I’d like to share a paragraph with you from it (and probably expect a few more in coming days):

“…Apple’s internal culture heavily favored the engineers within the product groups. The design process was engineering driven. In the early days of Frog Design, the engineers had bent over backward to help implement the design team’s ambitions, but now the power had shifted. The different engineering groups gave their products in development to Brunner’s group, who were expected to merely “skin” them.

Brunner wanted to shift the power from engineering to design. He started thinking strategically… The idea was to get ahead of the engineering groups and start to make Apple more of a design-driven company rather than a marketing or engineering one.”

That’s an unbelievably insightful conclusion Robert Brunner made. If he wanted to turn Apple into a design-driven company, then he’d have to prepare design concepts that looked further into the future than where the engineers were up to in their thinking. Products like the iPod and iPad are testimony that Brunner’s strategy worked.

We face the same situation in OSS today. The power of product development tends to lie with engineering, ie the developers. I have huge admiration for the very clever and very talented engineers who create amazing products for us to use, buuutttttt…….

I just have one reservation – is there a single OSS company that is design-driven? A single one that’s making intuitive, effective, beautiful UI / UX experiences for their users? Of course engineering holds power over design in OSS – how many OSS vendors even have a dedicated design department??? My network contains thousands of OSS / BSS / telco experts… but sadly… only 2 UI / UX / CX experts. That’s an indictment! Think about all the other industries where there are specialist human – machine – software interface designers. Contrast that with ours.

Let me give a comparison (albeit a slightly unfair one). Both of my children were adept at navigating their way around our iPad (for multiple use cases) by the age of three. What would be the equivalent “intuition age” for navigating our OSS?

If you’re a product manager, have you ever tried measuring the intuition age of your OSS? Have you ever considered benchmarking it (or an equivalent usability metric) and seeing what you could do to improve it for your OSS products? Can a 7 year old figure it out or does it require a double-PhD with 6 months of hands-on experience to easily navigate it?

Also, consider whether your OSS products are purple cows, with wow-factor built into the products, or whether marketing is only applied to help differentiate after the product has been designed and built by engineering teams.

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