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Why should new technology be easy to use?

Bill Wichert

Many of the most used technology services and devices have something at their core that differentiates them from their competition. Sometimes it is a cool feature, but most of the time, it is that they are easy to use. Think about the last time you loved a product that was really hard to use.  Items that are difficult to use, or require months of training courses to use, are not going to be successful because there is a level of pain that you must experience.  Easy to use solutions can become transparent and act simply as a tool.  This concept was at the core of our product design and is one of the reasons customers wanted it.  To that point, here are some specific ways to make your services easier to use for your customers.

Easy to use?

We all use different technology every day.  Phones, computers, cars, and many other devices and services are at the core of our daily life.  If you truly evaluate what you use, you will normally find that the technology is very easy.  If it was hard to use, you got rid of it, or never bought it in the first place.  Easy to use can be subjective since something I think is easy may not be easy to someone else.  Thankfully, the things that become most popular take that difference into account and are easy for all the user base.  This is part of the reason why Apple has become so dominant.  They focus on clear messaging and easy to use services above all else.  It is also why so many interesting products that were really hard to use are no longer around.  Studies show that consumers are willing to spend more on an easy to use product. When the result is a greater customer base, the increased income and retention translates to greater revenues.

Key attributes of easy to use

The most import aspect of a solution is that everything must be clear and understandable for an end user. Technology can be very complicated, but if the user only sees a single button click, then all that complexity is hidden from them.  You want them to be able to use your service as quickly as possible and make the most of it in that time so design your solutions with all the complexity removed from the users view and give them the most basic methods for completing tasks. You want to avoid wasted a user’s time and money. Once you have established the ability for users to perform certain tasks with your service, you want to add simple, intuitive options that save time and effort in the process.  When adding those features, never move away from the core requirement of making the changes easy to use and easy to understand.  As technologists, we love cool, shiny, and new, but our customers like simply, easy, and known.  We are not making things for us; we are making them for everyone else.  This is why Apple products tend to succeed where Google services are hit or miss.

 Easy to use is not easy to make!

Designing for an easy to use experience

A friend once told me a story where he was designing a media player for a client. The designer showed him a mockup of what was to become the most popular media player in the world. It was great looking and powerful, but because it was so complicated, he didn’t think it was any use to him, especially since it had to be sold at high prices, which was not an option for them. The designer explained that the player had to be easy to use or the price would not be high enough to get them to market, and a price they could afford.  These trade offs require a great deal of engineering and design.  For us, we could make a mobile app that has 20 buttons and 40 screens.  That would be clear, but not easy.  Instead, we focused on reducing those pieces down to basically four buttons and a handful of screens.  Now, what takes seven button clicks and four screens on a competitors services takes a single button click on ours.  This simplicity took a great deal of time and weeks of work with customers.  Easy to use is not easy to make!

Conclusion

Over the past decade, there have been numerous trends that have come about that have changed the way business has been conducted in this nation. The rise of the smartphone, advances in the wireless industry, and innovations in technology such as AI and automation have resulted in a new wave of innovation that is reshaping business. If you're able to make changes to your business, technology can be a big reason for its success; however, technology by itself does not make a company.  There have been hundreds of great ideas that were never fully realized because they could not be made simple.  As you focus on buying or using technology, never forget that the success or failure of your solution will be how well your employees or customers can use it.

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