An interesting theme has emerged in my conversations this week: that an impact of new forms of computing devices, particularly with touch screens, is that people’s fear of exploring in software applications seems to be diminishing.

In the world of WIMP, and desktop-based computing, the majority of people seem fearful of using devices. Many have had it drummed into them that doing the wrong thing in a piece of software will lead to catastrophe  But on a touch screen smart device people seem less afraid of the implications of trying to find out what a piece of software can do. We are less afraid to explore.

There are possibly a stack of reasons for this: more natural ways we interact with a smart device without the intermediation of mice and keyboards; far less complex applications; and less process-centric and more people-centric design of apps in the newer world.

I had the pleasure of spending some time with a couple of guys from a software company that supplies the insurance trade on Wednesday. We were talking about how they might ‘appify’ their products, and one of their conclusions was that they maybe had to look to produce dozens of apps, each focused down on limited sets of functionality relevant to a particular subset of the people who would use their products.

This has big implications for the way in which such companies might design their services: much of the traditional desktop software world is based on a model of including everything and then users find their own paths to the functionality they need; apps based on specific personae start with providing the bare minimum.

If an underlying system architecture has been well designed (some have, many haven’t) then becomes a manageable but complex design issue; if it hasn’t there are really big questions raised for plotting a path into this new world. Unpacking the “with the kitchen sink” model of applications of old into the new world of smart devices is going to provide some fascinating design and architectural challenges, particularly for established software companies who will otherwise face strong challenge from young upstarts who design from the start for the contemporary world of user experience.


2 thoughts on “Fear of exploration

  1. There’s also a commercial element here in that each app can be charged for separately, and that one app generates trust in the company so that a user will purchase another.

    This model has been tried in the desktop world, but users have been less keen on it on that platform. The reason often given for this is that people like certainty around the maximum they’ll need to spend to gain all of the functionality. Perhaps it’s that attitude which is changing?

    1. It’s possible. My hunch, though, is that the natural value of software as a product is fundamentally heading towards zero, and that monetization in the future will be through providing a service of demonstrable value and charging accordingly.

      By way of example, the insurance software company who I mentioned are increasingly moving to revenue through a split on sales. In that world, both software creator and purchaser are better locked into the same overriding objectives, and the apps and functionality that are delivered will be shaped either by what drives increased sales by the end consumer, or what can differentiate the software companies from other service providers…

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