Flawed Thinking

A few weeks ago, I chronicled a problem with one software application that led me to ditch it in favor of another. But it has taken only a few weeks of using the new application, Evernote, to notice significant design and usability flaws.

For example, there’s no way to hide, achieve or color-code notebooks within stacks or collections of notebooks. That’s fine when you have three to five notebooks in a stack, but when you have 75 or more, it devolves into a Rubik Cube.

My aim isn’t to trash Evernote: It’s a great application in many ways. Plus, you can find the same types of oversights and breakdowns in just about every software application out there—whether it’s used on a personal level or within an enterprise.

You can also spot design and usability flaws at most Websites, including those of major retailers. For example, the new Healthcare.gov site seems to have set a new standard for glitches.

The problem? IT lessons learned (unlearned?) over the last quarter of a century still don’t add up to fully baked products, sites and solutions. Yes, the stakes and the overall complexity of business and IT have grown exponentially over the years. And while applications and sites have become more sophisticated, new hiccups and choke points appear constantly.

It appears that a lot of products aren’t tested in the real world, or vendors rely too heavily on a narrow group of beta testers. No one will dispute the fact that businesses face tremendous financial and time pressures. It’s also extraordinarily difficult to provide all the features for all the people all the time without ratcheting up complexity to an unacceptable level. Nevertheless, whether it’s due to arrogance, obliviousness, entrenched silos, adversity to risk or any of a half-dozen other reasons, the end result is mediocrity.

It’s both shocking and ironic that in an era of unparalleled information and resources— including online surveys, focus groups, social media, crowdsourcing, analytics and business news—so many businesses and IT departments can’t get things right.

I’m not asking for perfect … just right.