Making it easy to make, InstallShield.

When my brother and I, Viresh, created InstallShield we didn't know about making things easy. It was a big rush to get more and more functions in the product so developers could create installations on Windows (and OS/2 too!!  :-(  )   We soon found that, from a support point of view, development tools are highly complex especially ones covering technical areas. I was in charge of product development from requirements, design and coding. Luckily, I had empathy for customers and listened to their pain. In my own novice way, I tried to make things easy. Over time as we grew I had many debates with the development team about ease of use. Easier to use interfaces always caused more work and sometimes less functional capabilities because time was spent on user interface. There were many battles.  But being cofounder I won most of them, but not all.  Ease of use is such a difficult to measure area but so important.


We had the phrase “making it easy to make" in the company for a time which helped frame people's thoughts for the customer. When I looked back at our efforts I'm most proud of the features of products which made them easier.  It demonstrated we were listening to the customer's complaints and really trying to make their life easier. For the people creating installations for products, it's the last step they have to do before shipping the product.  Having a big learning curve on how to make installations is not what they want.  They just want to be done.


Development tools always have this difficulty because programmers instinctively want to add more functions, more power for other programmers and expect everybody to fend for themselves in order to figure it out. After visiting a number of customers and seeing them in their cubes talking about the ease of use issues honestly... I saw their suffering. It really bothered me. Especially when the features they were asking for were completely reasonable and explained from their point of view.  We were not in a meeting room at InstallShield, we were at the customer with real people.


I think today in the cloud service area Amazon is doing a great job of making it easier. Certainly, it’s not anywhere near where it should be at but it’s good.  Microsoft has not taken a simpler approach.  As they always have, they provide too much information and in an overly dense way.  Even their emails on new cloud features are way too full of text.  Google is more difficult in my opinion. Their offerings tend to be more of ‘let the developer figure it out’ approach.  I think this is one reason while Google, while early to cloud services, stalled in people adopting their product.  They did not make it easy for developers.


For all these cloud providers and development tool companies, they need to focus on ease of use.  It’s key for adoption. If they are serious, natural language processing interfaces will revolutionize ease of use.  They must incorporate them sooner than later.  Easy to say, but tough you have to do it.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published