Don't you just hate it when applications and web-based SaaS solutions look cool, but once you start using them, you run into issues with the slick buttons (having to click once on everything to figure out what the icon means) or you just can't figure out where a certain feature is (assuming it even exists, but how can you know for sure?). "Mystery meat" is what I call these features – the peculiar school lunch that you have to taste first before figuring out what it actually might be. Nobody liked that as a kid, and they still don’t, definitely not after joining the workforce.
Many companies have gotten better at this over the years, but the never-ending stream of critique from end users over the usability of applications has now led to this field evolving into not only User Interface design (aka UI, how the whole thing is laid out, but confined to what the UX team designs) and the User Experience (aka UX, how it feels) specialists have ordained via their wireframes, storyboards etc.
IBM is one firm that is now pouring resources from its B2C learnings (POS systems, response and other forms of more or less interactive marketing) into its procurement solutions (Emptoris) at the moment. Expect to see the revamped solution suite in Q1 or Q2 next year. The current Emptoris UI/UX is actually quite decent, so I'm curious to see what the company will change.
Even for smaller firms, it isn't (or shouldn't be) that hard to develop good solutions. In fact, I think the correlation between a good solution and the size of a company are inversely related - the bigger the company, the greater the distance between developers and clients. Then there is the convergence to the mean, where the feature set gets biased toward the average firm and then inertia kicks in, in many cases nearly guaranteeing stagnation. Please be the exception to this rule IBM!
Back to what got me on this rant: Google with its Android system. For Apple iPad users (I am one myself, writing this on an iPad using Evernote, a great note-taking app), there is one really neat feature of Android on tablets - multiple user profiles. This was a big reason for buying one Samsung Galaxy Note tablet for my two daughters, 8 and 12 years old. The Android login screen lets you choose between user profiles, is password protected and has different user rights. Sure, the standard setup can't hold a candle to Windows user access fine-tuning, but that level of control would only get in the way for consumers. It’s a good thing for my daughters to be forced to share, too. Note that in both daughters’ cases I had to fib when creating their Gmail accounts – can’t register anything these days without an email address – and I certainly don’t want a stream of My Little Pony emails… Of course I had to lie regarding the emails. Google seriously expects nobody under 13 to have email? Strike 1 against Google’s UI/UX team. Other than that –so far, so good.
The eldest daughter gets the Google Playstore credit ($25) associated with having a brand new tablet, and she promptly buys the full version of Minecraft – making the new owners Microsoft happier. This gets the younger daughter envious, and now she wants Playstore credit to go shopping for apps – presumably her own version of Minecraft. Jason’s boys all love this blocky game too.
Here is where the UI/UX disconnect kicks in – try as I might, I can't find a way to "gas up" daughter No. 2’s Playstore account with credit. The option has to be there, but where? Googling the issue (how to gift Playstore credit) eventually revealed that it is not possible to give anyone Playstore credit in a digital way. Believe it or not, Google wants you to buy an old school physical gift card (adding injury to insult, charging $10 credit for $12) and then hand this to the person receiving the credit! Egads! And this from a company that practically is the embodiment of the Internet for many people. Yep, this is what you do: drive to Target, buy the gift card, hand it to the shopper. Really green thinking there, Cali company – do no evil! From my online searches, the experience overseas is even worse. I guess Google didn’t realize that they don’t have Target overseas. In any case, in most countries there is no way to buy Playstore credit like this. Strike 2 against Google’s UI/UX team – what were you thinking?
Sounds like buying a cloud P2P system, then print POs, snail mail them to suppliers, get paper invoices in return and then scan those back into the e-procurement system. So, let’s all enjoy some Schadenfreude and laugh at Google’s hapless efforts – feels better than cursing them for leaving out electronic gift cards. Try as I might, nothing short of some peculiar application of federal anti-money-laundering laws could justify this fail. Even then, Google, can’t you just persuade the feds that it’s enough to look at those with more than, say, $1,000 in game credits in their Playstore account?