Investments in User Experience

by October 1, 2005

Over a year ago I discussed the evolution of Web Interface Designs and asked if Web products had achieved a significant enough level of usability and technical integrity to be able to advance to the next level of user experience. Recently, a number of product releases (albeit in beta) from Microsoft and Yahoo have highlighted a significant investment in interface design.

  • Yahoo! Mail’s upgrade is predominantly being evaluated on the merits of “desktop-like” interface.
  • Much of the buzz around Microsoft’s Office 12 release is focused on UI improvements.
  • Microsoft’s Max team is trying to drive innovation through user experience design.

Is this an indication that certain software products are reaching a point in their lifecycle where user experience becomes a dominant differentiating factor?

“In the beginning stages of a technology, products are driven by the needs of technically sophisticated consumers. When technologies mature, however, everything changes. No longer can sheer engineering suffice. Now, for the first time, not only must the company take marketing seriously, it must entertain yet a third partner to the development process: user experience.” –Don Norman, The Invisible Computer

Does this “transition” have consequences for companies with products approaching a mature point of their lifecycle that continue to keep their focus on engineering and technology?