Thursday, May 03, 2007

The cool factor

Engineers are good at developing efficient and stable code. Some also get User Interfaces (UI) and can design them, but most don't. Once a good UI is designed, you need to make it cool. Some UI designers can make cool UIs, but most don't.

In my experience, the best combination is to have:
  1. a person that can design a UI and
  2. gives precise directions to an engineer for development and
  3. gives precise directions to a designer to make it look cool.
Now at Funambol we have all three (before we had just one, I let you guess which one ;-). It took a while to assemble the team, but if you look at the two pictures in this post, you can tell there is a bit of a difference between Funambol v3 and v6 clients...

Actually two: someone who designed the UI and someone who made it look good. Plus the great developer that makes it actually work, fast and stable.

The result is shown below: it is the Funambol Outlook plug-in released in v6 (now beta, soon GA). Above, the old v3 client.

When I showed to my wife for the first time, she asked me: "who developed it?". I answered "Funambol". She asked me: "no, I mean, which company made this application?". I answered (thinking she was making fun of me...): "Funambol". She finally said "Ahh, you mean it is Funambol software? I though it was Apple. Very cool".

Well, I cannot ask for more than "cool" and "Apple-looking" from my fashion-minded Italian wife...

A couple of weeks ago (maybe after seeing the cool client;-), Gartner put us in the "Cool Vendor" category... It is cool to be cool :-)

If you are devleoping software, do not underestimate the importance of cool. Open source software, in particular, is usually ugly-looking. It does not have to be. For open source to become mainstream, you need cool looking apps. They will look at your ugly app and say "naahh, they are not ready for prime time. It is just open source". Invest the $$ for someone to design the UI and someone else to make it cool.

BTW, if you are using Funambol v3 already, you can use the v6 clients today. They are backward compatible with the v3 server. No need to ask your IT Manager to upgrade the server. Download the betas with confidence, they are of a very good quality. Did I mention also cool?