The cult of consumerisation

Internet Explorer Beta 2 was released for review recently, and like Windows XP before it, it got a default mickey-mouse theme, with giant icons and completely different UI conventions from the business software that windows always has. With Windows XP though, it’s a few simple clicks and you’re straight back to the classic simple, professional view, IE 7 doesn’t have that capability, in fact in the classic view the new UI looks absolutely awful, I simply couldn’t find out how to work the thing, please MS don’t forget some people use the browser as a business tool.

The simplification and consumer focus is possibly a good idea, there’s certainly a market there that needs to be met, Windows Media Player is a consumer application so looking like it just fell off of the disney channel is perhaps not a bad thing, the browser though isn’t so simply a consumer application, it’s used daily on intranets by professional users, changing UI’s are a dangerous thing, simplified UI’s are simply not what this group need, they want consistency with their other applications. I fear it may be that Excel will have a nice mickey-mouse UI that forces existing users to completely re-learn their workflows. I fear this is purely a desire for the UI to look cool, completely ignoring the actual users.

This same problem has hit notebooks, it’s almost impossible to buy a laptop now that doesn’t have a widescreen, covered in logos and looking space age. To me these look completely unprofessional - a widescreen is only useful for watching DVD’s on - word documents, web pages etc. are portrait, minimising height is not helpful here. I would feel very uncomfortable walking into a pitch carrying one of these laptops, the only laptop I would comfortable with is of course the ThinkPad, but if lenovo decides to follow this consumerist targetting since leaving IBM, I’ll have nothing at all, and I might as well walk into meetings with the full mickey mouse ears and hope people can see the message behind the presentation.

Despite everyone on the web talking about the “long tail…” what actually is happening is everyone is chasing the biggest market - the consumer market. I recently needed a USB hub, they all were covered in bright flashy lights and big colourful buttons and … they simply weren’t something I could bring out next to the nice professional looking RFID readers they were going to sit next too.

Maybe I’m wrong and no-one makes judgements in the first moments of meeting you, perhaps it is purely the message and the presentation is immaterial, but I fear it’s not, and without the right presentation, I feel uncomfortable.

People, please don’t forget the professional user as you try to make your product more appealing to the incidental consumer - certainly there are more sales for the consumer, but the professional will pay more, and is much more likely to be loyal and upgrade more often. Don’t forget the professional, please!


  1. jim Says:
    Tom, The problem with this is that you don't have the time to invest in relearning workflows. Imagine you're working on your powerpoint presentation in the Office you understand, down walks some IT bod and says "just gonna upgrade your office pet" and you end up with a UI you don't understand immediately. Because you're not ready for the upgrade, you need to solve something now, you rebel against the upgrade and never buy into the system at all. It maybe that you can demonstrate a 10% efficiency gain by changing the UI, indeed you can do that with Dvorak keyboards, but the cost is an immediate 50% reduction in efficiency whilst the learning is going on (which can be months for many users). The new Office will just be left on the shelf, or the companies that force it on their users will lose out, new users will gain efficiency, and as these make up more of the market then the whole product can change. For example, because I don't use excel much, I'm still using (or more often attempting to use) Lotus 1-2-3 shortcuts to do stuff, the cost of change to users, makes change a great risk. Especially if it's making it more alienating like the IE change - although I've not seen Office, I imagine they've made less mistakes down the mickey-mouse UI idea.
  2. Tom Trenka Says:
    Not that I like the new IE interface but this: ...has some very well written posts talking about the upcoming Office 12 UI and *why* they've gone and done what they've done. Yes, you'll have to relearn the workflow a bit, but in theory all of the UI changes are based on gads of UI workflow feedback data.
  3. Danny Says:

    Mickey mouse UI for Excel? Wow, what a brilliant gap in the market!