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The book is on the table
Mar 9th, 2016 by Joca

“The book is on the table” is a phrase that every Brazilian who learns English is faced with when learning about use of preposition in English language. Hence the title of this article. 🙂

However, the book is not on the table. The is at LeanPub. Paulo Caroli is translating my book on Software Product Management that I wrote in Portuguese and launched in Brazil last year.

title_page

Our main objective with this translation is to increase the number of books on Software Product Management available for readers all over the world. The are not many books on the topic, even in English, and we believe the content of this book is useful for people in the software industry not only in Brazil but anywhere in the world.

We are working on the first chapters but as we progress we are already releasing the content. If you want to see the work in progress, please visit the book page at LeanPub.

And if you have friends who don’t read in Portuguese but are interested in Software Product Management topic, please feel free to point them to Product Management: Delight your customers with your software. Still in beta but already with valuable content. Feedback is always welcome!

4 people like this post.

What if we stop treating software development as a project?
Dec 4th, 2015 by Joca

When we treat software development as a project, we are giving it a start and an end, since all projects have clearly defined starts and ends. If we think about starts, that’s ok. All software development efforts have a clearly defined start.

project-vs-product

However, when we talk about end, software development and the software which is the product of the software development process may have an end but:

  • it’s quite difficult to define when is the end of the software development since that as soon as we put the very first version of the software in front of real users, we’ll receive a lot of feedback which we’ll make us start to think on opportunities to improve the software;
     
  • it’s quite difficult to define when is the end of the software. Every software exists to support one or more business processes, to reach certain business objectives while satisfying the needs of its users. As long as theses processes exist, and the software reaches the business objectives and satisfy the user needs, there’s no reason to end the life of the software.

For this reason both software development and the software which is the product of the software development process may have an end, but it is a clearly defined end. When we treat software development as project we are forced to define an end for this development since projects require a clearly defined end. In this situation we tend to define the software development end as the delivery of the software first release. But what happens after this delivery? Aren’t we going to do anything new in this software? Or should we start a new project to work on the next release of the software? If we decide to start a new project, what we will do while we don’t start to work on this new version?

This is why companies have started to treat software development as a continuous process, not a project, and the software as a product of this process. Software is a product with a clearly defined start, but no clearly defined end. The history of a software product is written during the life cycle of this product and the end depends a lot on the decisions made during this life cycle.

Hence the need of software product management in our industry.

Product Management book

Are you interested in the software product management topic? Do you to learn more about it? I wrote a book about the topic. The book has 5 main sections:

  • Definitions and requirements
  • Software product life cycle
  • Relationship with the other areas
  • Software portfolio management
  • Where should we use software product management

This book is recommended not only for those who have software as her core business. Companies who develop tailor made software as well as companies who use software to communicate with its customers like banks, schools, hospitals, etc., can also benefit from the book.

Interested? Well, the book is currently only available in Portuguese. So if you can read Portuguese, get your copy today!

If you don’t speak Portuguese, don’t worry! Paulo Caroli and I are working on translating the book into English, so feel free to leave a comment below, and we’ll let you know when the book is ready.

8 people like this post.

ThoughtWorks finally moves “product over project” from trial to adopt!
Nov 29th, 2015 by Joca

ThoughtWorks is a well known software development company which is always one step ahead of the rest of the software industry. Many people who contributed and continue to contribute to our industry are – or were – ThoughtWorkers. Martin Fowler, Jeff Patton, Neal Ford, Jim Highsmith, Rebecca Parsons, Ola Bini, Jim Webber, Luca Bastos, Paulo Caroli, Claudia Melo are just a small sample of people who work – or worked – there and have contributed a lot for the evolution of the software industry.

Since 2010 they publish a document called Technology Radar where they talk about their view on techniques, languages, platforms and tools for software development. This view is based on the experience from their consultants who work on a variety of software development endeavours from customers all over the world. They classify the techniques, languages, platforms and tools in four main categories:

  • Hold: when placed in this band, the item may be of interest to ThoughtWorks and others in the industry. However it is their opinion that the item is not ready to invest significant time and resources in which to build experience.
     
  • Assess: a technique, tool, language or platform that moves into the assess band of the radar is something that they believe is worth exploring with the goal of understanding how it will affect the technology impacted dimensions of your enterprise.
     
  • Trial: having established a radar item as something worth pursuing, it is important to understand how to build up this capability. Enterprises should look to trial the technology on projects that have a risk profile capable of taking onboard a new technology or approach.
     
  • Adopt: is the final stage that is of interest to them on the radar. Here they feel that the industry has begun to move beyond the trial phase and has found the proper patterns of usage for an item. An item may also appear in the adopt band if they feel strongly that the industry should be adopting a radar item now, rather than going through a more gradual adoption approach.

In May 2015 I was quite pleased when May’s Technology Radar edition brought “Products over Projects” as new technique and already recommended it as TRIAL. This showed that ThoughtWorks started to believe that software development should not be viewed as a project with a clear start and finish, but rather as a product, developed to support business processes of the owner of the software. This software will have a long life cycle, so long as the life cycle of the business processes it supports. For this reason, software development should not be viewed as a project with a predictable end, but rather as a product, a tool that will support the business processes for as long as the business processes exist.

I wrote about the differences between a product and a project back in 2011 and the more I work with software development, the more it get clearer to me that we should manage software development as a product, with a long lifecycle, with an unpredictable end. For this reason product management is so important for software development.

From trial to adopt

When I saw the November 2015 Technology Radar edition I was even more pleased when I saw that ThoughtWorks decided to move “products over projects” from trial to adopt. Doing so they now consider software product management as a technique that they feel strongly that the industry of software should be adopting in order to increase the chances of success of their software. Here it is in their own words:

We’ve long been championing the idea that thinking of software development as a project – something budgeted and delivered during a limited time slot – doesn’t fit the needs of the modern business. Important software efforts need to be an ongoing product that supports and rethinks the business process it is supporting. Such efforts are not complete until the business process, and its software, cease to be useful. Our observation of this products over projects approach, both with our own projects and outside, makes us determine that it is the approach to use for all but exceptional cases.

Certainly this will help people all over the world in creating better software, which will meet the needs of their customers while helping the software owners reach their objectives.

This is a great step forward for the software industry! This is great step forward for software product management! \o/

7 people like this post.

The IT problem
Mar 7th, 2014 by Joca

I have talked to some people lately about IT departments and how they seem disconnected from the companies they belong to, often being very reactive to business demands. It is common to hear complaints from the business people about IT saying they almost never deliver what was asked and that it is hard to understand what they say. On the other hand, it is also common to hear IT folks saying that the business area does not know what they want and that IT cannot answer “zillion” high priority demands of the business. This lack of understanding between IT and the business area of ​​the company is so common that it even became a subject of cartoons of all kinds:

IT-project

dilbert

But what is wrong? What is the IT problem?

Software development

For those who live in the part of IT that has to do with software development, this problem has been addressed for some time now. The Agile Manifesto, from 2001, makes this clear:

  • We have come to value customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
  • Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
  • Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
  • Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.

As the software developers need to deploy their software somewhere, they decided to involve the people who takes care of the production environment in this new way of thinking that bring together IT and business. Thus was born the DevOps movement in 2009:

DevOps (a portmanteau of development and operations) is a software development method that stresses communication, collaboration and integration between software developers and information technology (IT) professionals. DevOps is a response to the interdependence of software development and IT operations. It aims to help an organization rapidly produce software products and services.

Source: Wikipedia

In these software development teams it is common to see someone with the role of Product Owner or Product Manager. This is a role I’ve already described earlier:

Product Manager is responsible for all aspects of a software product, from strategic objectives to the details of the user experience. She is responsible for making the connection between the business strategy and the problems and needs of customers through the software that should help the company achieve its strategic objectives while solving the problems and needs of the customers.

The IT problem

Now imagine the IT department of Gap, American Airline, Disney, MIT or any other non-tech company. These IT departments will have among its scope the following functions:

  • Hardware inventories.
  • Software inventory and installation.
  • Server availability monitoring and metrics.
  • Security management.
  • Anti-virus and anti-malware management.
  • Anti-manipulation management.
  • User’s activities monitoring.
  • Capacity monitoring.
  • Storage management.
  • Network capacity and utilization monitoring.

As you can see, these IT departments already have enough stuff to worry about and will hardly develop software. If they choose to develop software, they will most likely use third parties to do this development. Even if they decide to develop internally, software development is still a small piece of IT. The concern of these IT areas is with how to integrate off-the-shelf software and make them work to meet the business needs.

The problem is that unlike software development, which already discovered the importance of having a product manager to help deliver results more aligned with the business, all other functions of an IT department does not have this bridge between IT and the business.

One possible solution to the IT problem

I would like to propose a solution to the IT problem: have more people with the role of “product manager”. I believe that name does not fit very well when the IT delivery is not software. That person will need to create a bridge between IT and business. Perhaps a more appropriate name is “business manager”.

This person would have the following responsibilities:

  • Gather IT needs in all areas of the company and identify and propose solutions to any conflicts between these needs.
  • When these requirements have impact on the end customer of the company, understand this impact on these customers.
  • Negotiate requirement implementation priorities with all business areas.
  • Work with IT teams to ensure that deliveries are made in accordance with the requirements gathered with the other departments of the company.
  • Act with the demanding areas and IT teams on any relationship with suppliers / partners. (e.g. banks, consultants, etc.)
  • Inform all areas of the company on new IT implementations as well as upcoming implementations. Prepare training as needed.
  • Work with marketing to inform customers when the new implementations are customer facing.
  • Define, track and analyze usage metrics from IT, to use them as further relevant information for decision making.

And to be able to carry out these responsibilities, this person needs to have:

  • Experience working with IT teams to deliver quality projects within expected deadlines.
  • Good understanding of IT and technical topics to be able to negotiate delivery options. Having been in the IT field is not required, but may help in the function.
  • General knowledge about the company’s products and services, as well as an understanding of the different departments of the company.
  • Good oral and written communication skills.
  • Negotiation skills between different stakeholders with different priorities.
  • Ability to documente requirements and use cases.
  • Leadership.

As you can see from the above description, this person have a senior profile. It will be a pair of the IT manager.

A question that may arise while reading this proposal to add a “business manager” to the IT team is why IT managers can not assume this role? Actually, they can, but they shouldn’t. IT managers already have many concerns. The IT manager has two main focuses, technology and people. She needs to be up-to-date on the technologies in her area to learn how to better meet the needs that arise. And she needs to manage the team, finding and coordinating good IT professionals is no an easy task. Putting on the IT manager the additional burden of business requirement management can lower the overall quality in current tasks.

In software development we’ve realized that it’s better to have a separate person taking care of business needs. Why not apply the same role separation for other IT areas?

4 people like this post.

Why the hurry to launch an MVP?
Oct 7th, 2012 by Joca

I mentioned earlier that I was starting:

a new project called “The startup guide: how to create and manage profitable web products”. It’s a blog that will eventually become a book where I’ll explain how to create and manage a web product with a profit.

Well, I finished writing the book which is called “The Startup Guide: how startups and established companies can create and manage profitable web products“. The book is focused on how any type of company – no matter if it’s a startup or an established company – can create and profitably manage a web software. All it’s content is available at the “Guia da Startup” blog. It’s currently in Portuguese so it’s a good opportunity for you to practice reading in a new language. If you are not up-to-date with your Portuguese skills, there’s the option of using Google Translate but some meaning may be lost in translation. For these reason I intend to translate the content into English eventually.

One of the most popular posts from this blog is about the reasons to make fast the first version of your product. Why do we need to make an MVP? Why not wait to have the product with more features to launch it? Herb Kelleher, co-founder and former CEO of Southwest Airlines has a famous phrase to motivate people to do things:

“We have a ‘strategic plan.’ It’s called doing things.”

This “strategic plan” can be translated into the #jfdi hashtag which means something in the lines of “just focus and do it” or “just freakin’ do it” (polite form).

But why the hurry? Why can’t we keep working on our product until we feel comfortable it has all the features we believe are needed to solve the user’s problem?

Well, there are 3 main reasons:

Reason #1: The moment of truth!

The longer you take to put your product in front of real users, the longer you take to start getting feedback from real people to know if you’re on the right track. And what’s even worse, you’ll probably be giving too many steps in the wrong direction.

A software is supposed to solve a certain problem of its users. You will not know if you have built a good product until the product is used by real users and it actually solves one of their problems. The longer it takes for this to happen, the longer it will take for you to know if your product is or is not the solution for someone’s problem.

And if it is not, what should you do? Change, adapt and present it again to real users! The sooner you know that what you’re developing is not on track, the better, because you’ll have spent less time, energy and money moving into the wrong direction.

Reason #2: Featuritis

There’s a limit to the number of features an user can understand. When we present a software full of features to a potential user, instead of providing her with a possible solution to one of her problems, we may end up creating a new problem for her. Kathy Sierra, a well known software development and user experience instructor, designed the Featuritis Curve that illustrates in a clear and fun way how user satisfaction diminishes as we increase the number of features of a product.

Reason #3: ROI

The longer you take to put your product in front of real users, the longer it will take for you get some revenue and the longer you’ll have to invest from your own money or investor’s money. Below is a typical return on investment chart. While you don’t launch your product and don’t have revenue, all you’ll have are costs, i.e., you’ll be in the investment phase of the curve below. This situation will only change when you get some revenue and this revenue pays your monthly costs. This is the monthly profitability phase in the chart. Only after a few months in the monthly profitability phase you’ll be able to get to the return on investment phase. It’s a long way:

Now take a look at the chart below. If you decide to delay your launch in 3 months, this can delay your return on investment in 6 months! Are the features that you intend to implement in those 3 months you are delaying the product launch worth the 6 months delay to get to the return on investment phase?

On the other hand, if you are able to launch 3 months sooner than what’s described in the first chart, you’ll get into the return on investment phase 6 months sooner. Isn’t that worth figuring out how to launch your product faster?

If you’re not embarrassed…

There is a famous quote by Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn, which really resonates with the MVP concept:

“If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”

To illustrate this quote, here are some print screens of early versions of well known software products:


Google in 1998


Twitter in 2006


Linkedin in 2005


Facebook login screen in 2005


Facebook in 2005

Next post

Last year I decided to run a lean startup experiment. Would it be possible to build a software and market it without using Locaweb’s marketing power? The result of this experiment is a calorie counter web product with more than 17,000 registered users in less than one year of operation. In my next post I’ll explain how I built the first version of this product in 10 days.

3 people like this post.

Why before how
Aug 7th, 2012 by Joca

This weekend I was at QCon São Paulo, a great conference made by developers for developers.

In this conference I talked about “Guia da Startup” (Startup Guide), a blog (in Portuguese) that became a book (also in Portuguese) about product management lessons for web startups and for non-startups with web projects. I have plans to translate the content of this book to English and post it here.

Martin Fowler (@martinfowler) from ThoughtWorks gave the first keynote. At a certain point he used an interesting quote to introduce the topic of good design and technical debt.

I commonly come across developers who are frustrated because “management want more features, they don’t care about quality”

The quote got my attention specially because as a developer talking to developers in a developer conference, Martin focused on the part of the quote that normally drives the attention of all developers, the “how” part. He focused on the “quality” word to explain how important it is to have good design to avoid technical debt so developers can add more features more easily. As I’m more focused on the product management side of software development, as soon as I read the quote, I focused on the “why” part. This motivated me to create a new slide in my presentation about product management practices:

When I heard the quote, my focus was directed directly to the word “features” and my first reaction was asking “Why is this feature being requested?”

When we are asked to implement a feature in a software, the natural reaction is to think how this feature will be implemented. However, we need to give a step back and understand what we are trying to achieve implementing this feature. What value this feature brings to the software users? What value this feature brings to the software owners? Every new feature, no matter how small it is and how simple it is to implement, creates complexity in our code. What’s the value we expect out of this additional complexity? This is a question that not only a product manager should ask, but every developer who is asked to implement a feature should ask.

So my recommendation to every developer who’s asked to implement a feature is, before rushing to figure out “how” a feature should be implemented, question “why” this feature is being asked. This will help you understand the importance of the feature and help who’s asking the feature to reassure the motivation behind this feature.

6 people like this post.

You need to talk with real users in order to build good software
Apr 12th, 2012 by Joca

I was reviewing ThoughtWorks latest version of their Technology Radar, which is a great source of information to help you know what’s hot in terms of software development and IT management, and notice it doesn’t mention Product Management (or you can call it Product Ownership) and put Experience Design (XD) only at the “assess” sector of the technique area of the radar.

In my view, Product Management and Experience Design are techniques as critical to successful software projects as DevOps, Continuous Delivery, Testing, Agile and Lean.

  • Product Management role tells what needs to done and in what order.
  • Experience Design role tells how what needs to done should be done, from the user experience perspective.

It is quite difficult to develop good software without those two roles and their techniques. Both should be in the “adopt” sector of the technique area of the radar.

Product Management is not only for systems that will become a product, but for any system, since any system will have users. The Product Management role is the link between system users and the team who will build the system. It is different from the Business Analyst role which is more focused in the business and the owners of the system. And its different from Experience Design role which is more focused on how a user interacts with a system.

The Product Management role is responsible for talking with real users of the system, understanding the pain that the system is supposed to solve for these real users and help define what needs to be developed. Note that a system may be owned by a company, like a ticketing system or an ecommerce system, and this company who owns the system will ask for a certain set of features so they can reach a certain business goal, but the requirement gathering is incomplete if we don’t listen to the real users of the system who normally are customers of the company who owns the system.

If you have a great group of developers, QAs and BAs, all veterans in using Agile, Lean, Testing, DevOps and Continuous Delivery, all of that is useless if you are not able define what is the minimal set of features that can create value for the customer in the first release. And subsequently define the minimal features to be developed and deployed that brings greatest value to real users. The Lean Startup movement calls it MVP (Minimal Viable Product). Mark Denne and Jane Cleland-Huang, authors of Software by Numbers, first published in 2003, coined another term for this minimal set of features. They call it MMF (Minimal Marketable Feature).

The Agile Manifesto says that we should value “Customer collaboration over contract negotiation” and set as it’s first principle that “Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software”. The issue with these two statements is that it assumes that the customer who is the owner of the system knows what is “valuable software”. However, the customer normally knows what is “valuable software” for him, i.e., he knows what are his business goals that they want to achieve with the system. The problem is that the customer doesn’t know his own customers/users enough in order to define the requirements upon what a system should be developed, i.e., the customer doesn’t know what is “valuable software” for his own customers/users.

It is the Product Manager’s role to understand the users of a product/system, the problem the users have, and should bring this information back to the developers and experience designers so these three roles can jointly come up with a product/system that solves the users problem and, at the same time, meet the system owner’s business goals.

What do you think? Do you agree? Disagree? Share your comments below! 🙂

8 people like this post.

Startup guide: how to create and manage profitable web products
Mar 12th, 2012 by Joca

I’m starting a new project called “The startup guide: how to create and manage profitable web products”. It’s a blog that will eventually become a book where I’ll explain how to create and manage a web product with a profit. The blog and the book will be originally in Portuguese. Unfortunately, because of the due date of the book, I won’t have time to translate the content here as soon as I write it in Portuguese but, if you don’t speak Portuguese, you still can read it using Google translate to help you have sense of what I’m discussing there:

As soon as I have some time available, I’ll be back here translating that material to English. 🙂

2 people like this post.

Lean startup experiment phase 4: revenue found, now need to find profit…
Mar 6th, 2012 by Joca

My lean startup experiment is an experiment I’m running to see if it is possible to launch a successful product (product = customer facing software system) without spending too much money and in a short period of time.

In phase 1 I had 5 product ideas and wanted to know in which should I invest.

In phase 2 I pick the idea with more interest from phase 1 and invested in creating the MVP (Minimal Viable Product), ContaCal, a calorie counter system.

In phase 3 I launched the website, the online campaign, got real users feedback and improved the system based on this feedback.

My phase 4 main objective was the search for revenue!

Costs for changing the system was getting too expensive

I was getting at a point were I needed minor changes to the system and every change to the system was going to cost me too much, not only in money but in time, since freelance developers are not available whenever you need them. I’m an old programmer… My last production code was in Perl. At that time, Microsoft ASP was new stuff and no one ever heard of PHP. This was 1998.

As soon as I got the database access, I wrote a simple Perl application to generate statistics so I could check how the app was going, how many users signed up and so on.

Due to my familiarity with Perl I was tempted to write more code using this language but since this is an experiment, I decided to get the source code from the source code repository (GitHub), try to run the application locally on my machine, make some changes, test it, send it back to GitHub and then deploy in production. It worked! 🙂

Now the doors were really open to full experimentation. The site was based on WordPress, so I could change it to certain degree anytime I wanted. And now the application I could also change – to a certain degree – anytime I wanted, so it’s time for some experiments.

Prior to revenue, a survey

Prior to charging users for using the system I decided to run a survey so I could have a better understanding of how the users view the product. The first question was about the NPS (Net Promoter Score), a customer loyalty metric:

The Net Promoter Score is obtained by asking customers a single question on a 0 to 10 rating scale, where 10 is “extremely likely” and 0 is “not at all likely”: “How likely is it that you would recommend our company to a friend or colleague?” Based on their responses, customers are categorized into one of three groups: Promoters (9–10 rating), Passives (7–8 rating), and Detractors (0–6 rating). The percentage of Detractors is then subtracted from the percentage of Promoters to obtain a Net Promoter score (NPS). NPS can be as low as -100 (everybody is a detractor) or as high as +100 (everybody is a promoter). An NPS that is positive (i.e., higher than zero) is felt to be good, and an NPS of +50 is excellent. Companies are encouraged to follow this question with an open-ended request for elaboration, soliciting the reasons for a customer’s rating of that company or product.

Source: Wikipedia

ContaCal’s NPS was 65%, a very good index.

ContaCal NPS

ContaCal NPS

The second question was about how much the user was willing to pay for the service.

How much would you pay?

How much would you pay?

39% of the users were willing to pay for the service and the average price they were willing to pay was around 5 BRL per month.

We also asked about nutritionist counseling as part of the service and in this scenario, 42% of the respondents were willing to pay an average price of 20 BRL.

Nutritionist counseling

Nutritionist counseling

The last question was about ad supported business model. I was not surprised that 94% of the users preferred the free ad supported option.

Ad supported

Ad supported

The search for revenue

My first experiment was with ads. The option at hand was Google AdSense, so I implemented it in the website as well as inside the application. The results were not very compelling. 🙁

I experimented with AdSense during one month. I had close to 85K pageviews and 20.5K unique visitors. This generated U$ 32.19 in revenue.

Next step was billing. Here in Brazil we have boleto bancário, an alternative to credit card for receiving payments.

Boleto Bancário is a financial document, a kind of proforma invoice issued by a bank that enables your client to pay the exact specified amount to the receiving party (merchant). As long as within the due date period, your client may use a lotto house, supermarkets, post offices, home banking in addition to any bank agency in the Brazilian territory.

Source: The Brazil Business

I implemented initially boleto bancário using Cobre Grátis service. I had some issues that made me change to credit card. For credit card processing I used PayPal. Quite useful since they provide recurring payments as well as international payments, which was quite handy since ContaCal was also attracting some users from other Portuguese speaking countries and I do have a few subscribers from abroad! 🙂

After using credit card only lots of user were asking for boleto, so now I offer both options.

Some time ago I showed my initial user statistics:

ContaCal users 08/2011 through 10/2011

ContaCal users 08/2011 through 10/2011

Below you can find the follow on statistics up to February 2012, not only for users but also subscribers:

ContaCal users from 11/2011 through 02/2012

ContaCal users from 11/2011 through 02/2012

ContaCal subscribers from 11/2011 through 02/2012

ContaCal subscribers from 11/2011 through 02/2012


One thing that is really important is to have a log of all the tests made so you can relate each of the experiments to the numbers you see in your charts.

The results

Below are the results of 6 months of my lean startup validation experiment.

ContaCal numbers

ContaCal numbers


Under Mkt costs is AdWords and Facebook Ads. Under Infra costs are all infrastructure costs including hosting, email marketing tool, domain registration, unbounce and any other SaaS tool required to run ContaCal. Under Dev are all the development costs including not only the Startup DEV but also the WordPress theme acquired at themeforest as well as the designer who worked on implementing the theme in the WordPress.

Now I need to work on reducing those costs as well as keeping the revenue growth.

Next phase: the search for profit

Since I was able to find some revenue, now it is time to search for profit. Some of the areas I’ll work on during next phase:

  • reduce advertising costs by improving AdWords usage
  • reduce infrastructure costs by optimizing its usage
  • price increase
  • usability review

See you there! 🙂

1 person likes this post.

Restriction driven simplicity
Jan 20th, 2012 by Joca

I just returned from vacation and was reviewing some photos in my cel phone when I found some old photos from a previous trip to SF. In the airport there was an exhibition about TV sets and some old remote controls got my attention. Here’s a picture of them:

Old TV remote control

Old TV remote control

Checkout the number of buttons in the remote control. The maximum is 4. There are some remotes with only one button. When I was a kid I remember the first TV bought in my house with a remote control that had only 2 buttons, one for volume and other for changing channel. That simple! That was around 1975. At the time, the technology for making a remote control was too expansive, so it could not be too complicated and have too many buttons, otherwise it would be too expansive to be sold in the market. That was the restriction that drove the simplicity of those 1st generation remote control. Now we don’t have that restriction and we get remotes that can accomplish much more tasks but are way more complex. Take a look at the picture below (and I even picked a not-so-complex one!):

Digital TV Remote Control

Digital TV Remote Control

So maybe next time we want to design something more simple, we can think of imposing some restrictions to the design process! 🙂

4 people like this post.

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