The user interface of an application is one of the most important selling factors – the default UI sets the first impression; and the first impression decides if the program gets booted off the handheld or not. I dare to say that my Daily Quote product has a decent UI – but anyways, a few analysts sent me suggestions for further improvement.
Improving UI is great, wohoo, throw away the old, here we go – but is this the right way? IMHO, it isnt – as you alienate your core user base when changing UI.
Microsoft radically changed the UI of its Office family – for the first time ever in the company’s history. When Windows 95 arrived, you could disable the Explorer shell and stay with Windows 3.x program manager – in fact, even my Windows XP box still has that archaic tool installed. The reason why Microsoft could afford the radical change is simple – they lead the market, and thus can squeeze down out throats whatever they want to. If I don’t upgrade, eventually, I wont be able to communicate with my partners at various ESDs and companies. Do or die…
On the other hand, for a Palm OS house, existing customers are a very precious resource as they can(and will) move away from your company if annoyed. Changing the UI of a product is a huge annoyance – so keep the improvements in check. Adding small and unobtrusive dialogs, etc is not the killer here – the problem starts when you revamp large areas of user interaction. For example, if users always had to use the menu and now get a toolbar button – eeker squeek!
DataViz had a great idea when they released DocumentsToGo 7 – but the toolbars were completely redundant and could be disabled. Essentially, I can have DocumentsToGo 9 look like v6 or v4 – and this is what keeps users loyal…
What do you think?