A must read for technology developers and integrators

So, I'm not sure if you're familiar with 37 Signals, but they're the guys who make Basecamp and some other work-optimization software (we use Basecamp right now for our web-site redevelopment, is sort of how I came across them, but I've been aware of them for a little while - they're seriously good thinkers). Anyway, their raison d'etre is simplicity, trying to cut out the extraneous crap we have to deal with every day and just focusing on those things that move our lives and jobs forward in the direction we'd like to go. They've got a blog, too, called Signal vs. Noise, where they talk a lot of about good user interfaces, efficient design, all kinds of things that make our lives easier and more comfortable (or don't, I guess). Over and over again, I find myself thinking about how their theories could and should be applied to the security marketplace. Why isn't this stuff we're talking about every day (in my case) or installing every day (in your case) or using every day (in your customers' cases) more elegant, easier, more efficient, more enjoyable to actually use on an everyday basis? This one post in particular I consider to be must-reading for the manufacturers and integrators in the industry, both those who are making these products and those who are making the sales pitch. The essential premise is that many technology makers and salespeople ignore simple human nature as they go about designing and selling products. Because they're so close to what they do, and consider the finite details and points of contention with their competition so important and compelling, they forget that end users really don't give a crap about any of that. I love this paragraph:
This isn’t to say that some people didn’t take the features and technology seriously, but it is to say most – nearly all – didn’t. They didn’t care about the same things the manufacturer cared about. And they certainly didn’t see the world the same way the brand rep saw the world. The customer wanted the simple things done well. Their evaluation consisted of a few key things: look, fit, and comfort. And that’s it.
He's talking about selling shoes, but until that last line, couldn't he have been talking about 90 percent of the end users at the ASIS show? Here's another bit:
It all reminds me of the software business. The industry is obsessed with touting features while the public is obsessed an entirely different set of criteria: Does it solve my basic problems and is it easy to use? Does it make sense? Do I understand it?
Seriously. How many times have I been sitting through a conversation where someone wanted to tell me about frames per second and megapixels and RS482 interfaces and the IF-MAP protocol and APIs and SDKs and all this other crap and found myself wondering why any of that matters? About a million times. Often, I know, logically, why it matters. And sometimes I do even care. But most of the time I'm putting myself in the shoes of the integrator or the end user and wondering, "Where can I use that exactly? What's it actually make it so I can do that I couldn't do before?" And design! Hello! Why doesn't anybody seem to consider what these products will look like on the wall? Only a very few companies seem to create products that I'd want in my chic retail store in Manhattan or my brand-new multi-million-dollar corporate campus. Where is modern design? Where is the appeal to the guy who just cares what the shoes look like on his feet and whether they fit well or not? Why - and this is a serious question - do 90 percent of the software GUIs I look at look like they were designed by Microsoft in 1998? Blue and gray, square boxes, Times New Roman or Arial font, graphics that look like they came off an Commodore 64. Do you have to have the specs at the ready to assuage any fears that a technically minded buyer might have? Of course. Are you going to make a different sales pitch to the IT director than the security director? Quite possibly. But if you're not considering who's actually going to be using and looking at your product every day, the system that you're designing to be their central mode of security operations, I think you're really missing out on a chance to connect with end users on an entirely different level. Make it a joy to use and operate and the product will sell itself. If it's a pain in the ass and you have to convince the end user with talk about features and capabilities, you're going to have a reluctant buyer who's looking for reasons to hate it.


Interesting. John Honovich made just this point a few months ago: http://ipvideomarket.info/report/easy_to_use_video_management_software

He was talking about ease of use in reference to VMS systems, but the point can be stretched to include the user unfriendliness of security product overall. Ugly, difficult to use product because no one wants to throw a VMS at a focus group made up of a few average security guards- you know, the people who will be using the product.

This industry shoots itself in the foot so often, I'm amazed we can still stand up.

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Amen!! There is so much promising technology out there right now, but most of the physical product looks like crap, or outdated. The multitude of 'features' are still hard to navigate for experienced security technicians-how are 'normal' people-our customers-supposed to use it? It is amazing that most of these companies that are part of multi-billion dollar manufacturing conglomerates can't afford a 50K a year product designer.


"Make it a joy to use and operate and the product will sell itself."
....and that's exactly what the folks at Apple did with the iPhone.
Well, at least some in the security industry are building on the success of smart phones and providing us with cool app's. Perhaps we should all listen a little more carefully to what our customers want.