When I’m leading a technology selection process, I ensure my client has a deep understanding of the companies involved, the software, the service, the business implications of contract provisions, the feature differences between systems, and so much more. But for the software to be “easy” almost always seems to bubble up near to the top as a consideration – and it sometimes overrides many other considerations. But just how easy should software for professionals be?
If everything else was equal about the software capabilities, training and support, availability, system speed, vendors and so forth, of course the scales would be tipped in favor of the easy software. But typically, easy comes at a cost. There’s a spectrum that runs from “full of features, information, and flexible and difficult” to being “light on features, lacking information, and inflexible and easy”. Good software design is often the result of an effort to find the right balance.
I’ve written a lot about software design – for example, about what user experience designers do, and common user experience mistakes made when designing real estate search. Almost every software company does their best to meet the user and customer requirements while maintaining ease of use. But, the most information-packed report will never look as elegant as one with less information and white space. And apps with more customization capabilities (that provide the ability for agents to differentiate) are always more complicated to figure out than those that provide no options. Again, the software designers try to maintain the balance, but you can’t have it all – there’s always a compromise.
Another factor that plays into “ease of use” is “How similar is the new software to my old software?” Often, the more innovative the new software choice is, the less it will be like the old software. So, if ease of use is top priority, people are likely to choose the less innovative software – and that’s not a good thing for them in the long term.
Which is the tool for a professional photographer?
Consider this question: “Which is easier? A DSLR camera or a point-and-shoot camera (or phone camera for the those among us who have never held a standalone camera)? Obviously, the point-and-shoot or phone camera is easier than the DSLR. But have you ever seen a professional photographer on the job with just a phone camera? What would you think if you saw a professional wedding photographer trying to shoot in low light with a little point-and-shoot camera? Perhaps we should expect professionals to be able to use the professional-grade software tools, even if they are a bit difficult. Maybe if someone is going to have a tool for a few years, they would consider going for the tool with more capabilities, a tool that one could learn and grow into, and select it over a tool that’s very easy to use all of its few features immediately, but leaves no room for growth.
I would love it if we could get extremely innovative, functionally robust, and information-packed software that was super easy and looked great – but you just can’t have it all. I’m not saying that ease of use isn’t important – sometimes simple and easy is just great – but one must look at what one is giving up for that ease of use and ask the question, “How easy is too easy?”
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