Good software design

November 03, 2017reflections

The team at HosPortal often reflects on good design. Recent discussion includes why, after about 5,000 years of design refinement across the globe, you can still buy teapots that drip when you pour them.

But of all topics, nothing gets us more passionate than seeing both good and bad software design. We do not always get our HosPortal interface right, but every time we make a change it is the result of a conscious decision after reflecting on what is best for users.

This was on our minds in two related examples recently. HosPortal uses one of the world’s leading helpdesk systems, let’s call it DifficultSoft, which is used by companies large and small to manage inbound help requests amongst many staff. But my goodness is it diabolical to use. Some creative types have implemented icons that mean nothing to anyone other than the designer, and every possible thing you want to do, every button, and every menu item, is in a place different to where any other software chooses to put it.

So we found another one, which I’ll call EasySoft. Simple, clean interface, about one third of the features of the old one, but just the ones we need for our sort of business and our type of users. And cheaper, too.

Here's the second part: with years of accumulated data we also need to find a tool to migrate the data across. We unearthed a specialist sub-industry of software providers that port data from one cloud-based software to another. We chose one that advertised their capability to migrate DifficultSoft to EasySoft. We entered data, configured files, provided permissions, and then waited. Only to be told that DifficultSoft to EasySoft migration is "not supported at this time".

I like to think that HosPortal has already learned the lessons from these case examples:

  • Implement software only after careful thinking about usability, not fancy visuals.
  • Only provide the features that users need, and hide the ones that are irrelevant.
  • Don’t market something you cannot deliver.

(and if anyone can tell us why we now have the technology to X-ray a pyramid, but our teapots drip more than the ones the Pharaoh’s used, then please get in touch.)

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