Alex Votsmush has it.
Every time I research some domain related to enterprise and check various products in it, my eyes bleed. I just can’t embrace unsightly screenshots on product pages and ugly tours. Why is that? We have so many beautifully designed products, web sites and services on the mass market, but if the product is designed for other companies (especially large) it is almost inevitably looks terrible.
Sprint board in Polarion software. Italic, strike through, bullet points — total mess.
My current theory is that enterprise software vendors have no taste. CEO, VP of development, Product managers that focus on enterprise market — all of them have no fucking taste. There is no taste in companies DNA, nobody cares about design and aesthetic. Profits, revenue, sales and new features — yes! Beautiful design — no.
I have a very simple criteria to check how good the solution is: If I can demo it to the potential customer and be proud about what I show — it is good. If I can’t imagine demoing it — it sucks.
Sometimes initial look is not so bad, but when you start to run real cases you feel a constant pain caused by delays, missed UI patterns, unintuitive ways to do things and lack of hints… stop, it is more about user experience and we are talking about taste.
Rational Team Concert has home icon in top corner. Why?
Why so few enterprise vendors praise good design and spend time on polishing it? Is it so hard to add correct spaces between form element and labels? No, it is not, but nobody cares.
DevSuite has classical UI with overwhelming amount of details, gradients, embarrassing lack of spaces in a form and total lack of taste.
You may argue that it is economically unwise to spend much time on design, train people to differentiate good design from bad design, train yourself to spot shit as an executive. I can agree with this argument for B2B markets, but I personally can’t create products that look like they were designed without passion. Every product should be created with passion and it spreads to every little detail in the product. Period.
Rally Software not the worst example, but still many small details uncover the truth — lack of taste.
Is there any opportunity to companies that value good design on B2B markets? Several years ago I’d said no, but with all latest trends I think design is becoming more and more important. Mobile surge and great B2C products slowly change people expectations from all software products. When you use an iPhone or even a Galaxy S and then switch to Salesforce on your laptop—you feel the difference.
Famous Salesforce is not an exception. Totally successful business has outdated and tasteless product. At least I know they are improving in other areas.
This feeling accumulates with time. You start to notice small glitches and overall clutterness. Eventually, when you’ll see a good looking B2B product you’ll want to give it a chance.
Another argument I hear often is about utility. It is easy to bury utility under the beautiful picture. But good design has both:
The most elegant solution will yield a design that is gracefully tempered with restraint and precision — both useful and beautiful.
I hope enterprise vendors that focus on design and put significant effort into it will win eventually. Unfortunately, this strategy doesn’t bring significant additional revenue right now. But money is not everything in this world. I value passion, craftsmanship and quality more.