Over the last 10 years, consumers have benefited greatly from innovation in web-based applications. We’ve seen companies like Twitter, Facebook, Netflix, Dropbox, and Kickstarter develop massive web audiences. Want to buy Tony Hsieh’s book about Customer Service? No problem, it’s on Amazon and you can download it on your Kindle and be reading it in minutes. Need to book a condo in downtown Austin for a last minute trip? Airbnb’s got you covered.
The amazing thing is not that these services exist, but that they are easy to use and can be quickly integrated into everyday life. Great design innovation has enabled consumers to benefit tremendously from technology without having to understand the details of how it works.
However, there is a significant and noticeable difference when you compare these applications with what most people experience with the software they use to do their jobs. In many cases you end up taking weeklong training courses and reading excruciatingly dull manuals that expose every possible feature and option. Most enterprise software feels like it was designed purposefully to expose complexity, as if every menu choice, dialog box, or option was a justification for the high price that is charged. No wonder Enterprise software has long had a bad rap for being difficult to choose, setup, and utilize.
If you’ve ever used Siebel, PeopleSoft, or Documentum software, you’re probably nodding along. These companies designed software when the strategy was to simply add whatever feature customers asked for so that they could win every RFP (Request for Proposal). And it turned out to be a good strategy for selling software. Just not for using it.
So not surprisingly, companies bought a lot of software that they didn’t end up fully utilizing. Anyone who’s worked with Microsoft Office can probably relate to this. There are oodles of features that you rarely – if ever – require, and all they seem to be good for is making the software bloated, slow, and complicated.
But in the last several years there’s been a new interest in designing software for the users, rather than the buyers. Two trends have emerged hand-in-hand to help. One is the movement towards Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) or cloud-based applications. These applications don’t have to be installed; they are as accessible via browser as Facebook, Twitter, or Amazon. So there are no servers to buy, provision, or keep up-to-date.
The second major trend is the emergence of the “Beautifully Simple” design approach. Savvy companies are making sure that their products remain easy-to-use even as they add more functionality. Consider how much functionality has been added to the iPhone over the last 5 years, yet it remains a tremendously simple device to use.
We’re witnessing a renaissance in Enterprise software that embraces SaaS and “beautifully simple” design process to deliver an easy-to-use experience even in areas that have sophisticated functionality. Software like Box, GoodData, Highrise, Twilio, and Yammer show that Enterprise software doesn’t have to be too difficult to use.
Our strategy at Zendesk has always been about delivering a “beautifully simple” experience for our customers. Not only in our software, but also in how we do business. You can do a trial without ever talking to a sales rep or giving us a credit card. Our pricing is clearly posted on the web site without a bunch of fine print with additional add-on charges.
We’re constantly innovating ways to make Zendesk more powerful and easier to use. We have a dedicated design team that helps examine not only what functionality is in the product, but also how we make it simple and even fun.
We believe that paying attention to beautifully simple design principles will help deliver a phenomenal experience for our users and make their jobs easier. And by making that experience better for Zendesk users, we think we can make the world of customer service a better place.
Zack Urlocker is Chief Operating Officer at Zendesk.
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