Better or just not worse?

It seems like, in software competition especially, the rule of thumb is follow the leader.  You only have to be the same as the competition in some areas, you don’t have to be better.  

Look at software reviews – side by side comparisons with yes and no boxes, and it’s not just the reviews, the software vendors themselves do it.

Working with software as I do, in moving data between products, and in being the architect of new software designs, I’m always thinking, “why would someone choose this particular product?” and I also think of ways that I could do it better.  Not just include what’s expected because that’s what someone else does.  I want better.

While I always think yes I can do it better, when looking at the software industry, that doesn’t seem to be the industry way, pushing to be better.  For many software offerings it’s not about being ‘better’, it seems to be about “not being worse” which could really mean – “we’re the same – just different”.

While nobody advertises, by saying: “We’re not worse”, because, what kind of sales pitch would that be? That’s what I think they’re doing, without ever saying it. Maybe it’s just my perspective, but by pointing out their features, functions compared to the features and functions of their competitors are they really saying they’re better?  By saying YES to the places where features match this product or another, does this sway you?  Aren’t they just  saying, “we have the same features as the other guy,  so really we’re not worse” … while not really saying WHY they’re better, except for a few new Yes or No check boxes in their favor? Or showing where someone else may charge, and your cost is included?  Is that a sway factor?  A lot of times I suppose the answer is yes.  For me though, it makes me want to ask, then why not just keep using what I have, if this one isn’t better.

Though if that’s the criteria that users and buyers of software are used to, and you feel that you should be thinking comparisons are how you compare product to product, the “not worse” isn’t a bad place to start, I just don’t take that as the only view of how I’ll choose your next product.

Cost should also not be the biggest driving factor either.  What comes included vs. what you’ll pay for with one software or another – sometimes what’s missing is the hidden cost of bad software that came at a low price.

Your real deciding factor should be to look at things like …

       How is the workflow of the software, does it fit your natural workflow?

        How frequent are updates, too few and the software gets left behind, too many and you may start to feel like           the software you purchased, is still being developed.

        Does the software help you get to information quickly, or even more quickly than before?

        Is support responsive, answering questions the same day?

        How difficult are the features to get to or use when you’re busy?

        How easy is it to remember where a feature or function is?

From experience I know that a lot of working time is spent in locating a physical item or a person, outside of the software – what if instead of being “the same and not worse” actual workflow improvements were made in the HOW those things or those people are found outside the use of the software?

Maybe this is where my years in support and training come into play.  Listening to customers, and seeing how the different programs they used actually worked for them has influenced my design decisions, not trying to copy anything, but to think of the NEED and how that need is addressed through better software designs.

What if software came with intuitive views of events, or locations of items instead?

The comparison chart may say YES, but that’s not a simple YES that’s a “doing it better” approach.

What if when you clicked on the person in a database you could view contact information, and the upcoming events from one view?  Isn’t that something that’s BETTER, maybe compared to having to run a multi-step report to find the same information?

In a list it may just be a comparable feature to match one to the other, but those are not the same – one option strives for BETTER, not looking to be NOT WORSE.

As a user & buyer, you shouldn’t just look at a list of features side by side, and conclude that you should buy because “this isn’t worse than what we have”, “it’s not worse than the other more expensive option”, you should base a purchasing decision by choosing better software, not just one that’s not worse.

What happened to original thinking, of approaching a user and finding out where their needs are, and finding ways to improve their workflow, and not just trying to incorporate a feature that whatever competitor may have, or whatever the current software design has in it?

I always thought this was the better way.  The idea of my software isn’t going to be that it’s just not worse than the next, it really should show that it’s better.

Only users and time will tell.