Why good party hosts design the best software
Hosting a party this season? You’re likely putting a lot of thought into the invitations, food, drinks, seating, and flow so that everyone feels comfortable. In the ideal setting, the environment of a party enables and supports connection. Conversations flow naturally and everyone is at ease. Guests arrive with expectations and desires, those requisites are met, and the party goes off without a hitch. Exceed expectations and desires and the party transforms into something quite memorable. The same is true for software design.
I got a new computer this week and hadn’t yet set up a printer for it. Forgetting this, I went to print a document and remembered: “Oh, right I need to set that up.” I’ve been conditioned at this point to navigate into System Preferences and go through a cumbersome process of adding the printer. It’s a task that is so disjointed it can add measurable time and effort to the original task at hand. However, it’s become a natural means to an end for me. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised (delighted, actually) at how well my new computer anticipated my need and made the task effortless. The print dialog alerted me that no printer had been selected and then helpfully suggested the nearest printer on the same network. Selecting that suggested printer automatically kicked off a process that downloaded the correct driver and configured it without any additional effort on my part. Just 15 seconds later, I found myself staring at an updated print dialog with my selected printer ready and waiting for me to trigger the print job. What was once confusing and cumbersome is now part of an intuitive series of pop-up windows that played out automatically for me within moments and without taking me away from my original print screen.
Instead of finding my way around the party on my own and introducing myself to strangers, I was greeted at the door by the host who handed me a drink, gave me a VIP tour, and introduced me to a few like-minded friends. That’s a party I’ll gladly attend again.
My point is this: Great software anticipates the needs of its users leaving them feeling delighted and perfectly tended to. Like the software “gets them.” Perhaps we’ve always known that this anticipation of needs is pinnacle for software but, until recently, we just didn’t have the means to accomplish it. Rest assured, we can accomplish it now.
The remaining hurdle many organizations now face is how to easily identify the true expectations of guests before they arrive. It is tempting to jump into software design without fully grasping this. The truth is, you’ll never fully think through all of the corner cases that define a software system (or comprehend the needs of your “guests”) unless you see and interact with it. For that, you need a clickable, interactive prototype. Don’t write a single line of code until you have fleshed out the whole “party.” Give the process time and expect multiple cycles. The more you prototype, the more you’ll come to truly understand the real scope of what you are building. And that, my friends, will transform your party – or your user experience — from “as expected” to truly epic.