Reinventing the light bulb

Posted by on Sep 18, 2012 | Comments Off on Reinventing the light bulb

Yesterday I’ve learned about LIFX,  a new kind of light bulb that it does not only uses energy-efficient LED technology, but it is also wi-fi enabled and can be controlled from a smartphone.

It’s a wonderful idea, although that the ability to remote-control every light in your home or office is not new, (X10 has been around since late 70’s). The twist is that if you already have a wi-fi network in place, you will only need to replace the bulb and that’s about it.

So this got me thinking that the right way to introduce a whole new set of capabilities in a well-known everyday “something” in order to improve it, is by minimizing the effort required to embrace that change, or by reducing the amount of disruption the change would cause on a known environment, that might already be chaotic, but still it is familiar to the user and it has learned to live with it and feels “comfortable” as currently is.

So, if we apply the same idea to software development, we should think throughly how does a change in the UI affects the user.

Is it really necessary to change the location of a button or link?

Why sort a listing that has always been unordered?

Why change the colors, or the labels, or the font size, or the menu label?

Obviously there are changes in the UI that need to be done because it was plainly wrong the way it was before, but if the nuisance was minor and the user got used to how it was, why change it?

If you’re a long time Facebook user, you already know how odd is to find a major change in the UI: there it goes again… clicking here and there to find that setting that was in an odd place, but still you knew where to find it!

So, whether you’re an analyst, project manager or developer, think how would the user feel if in the new version of the application he/she uses everyday, all day long, suddenly changed the location, color or label of something just because.

In order to have your user to happily adopt a change, you just have to make it as simple and easy as changing a light bulb.