In the taxicab enroute to Web 2.0, my 60 year old cabbie lambasted technology for its complexity. He bought a computer a few months ago. Three weeks passed before he sent his first email successfully. It wasn’t for lack of trying; he left a space between the first and last names in the email address. 

“If it can add a bajillion ones and zeros together, how come it can’t figure out what I meant?”

All great products are forks

The cabbie’s issue isn’t one solved by raw computing horsepower or software scalability but design. Great product design, Heidegger said, results in the user experience of a fork. You shouldn’t realize you’re using it; the fork feels like an extension of oneself. All the great products of our day have that magical ability.

Product design shows up in the bottom line

Over the past several 24-36 months, the role of design in product adoption is finally receiving its due. Apple’s iPhone, with its approachable and intuitive interface, brought smart phones to the masses. And with this significant reduction in complexity, without a sacrifice in functionality, Wall Street and Main Street realize the impact design can have to the bottom line.

For both consumer and SMB software product adoption, great product design is essential to the success of startups. In the valley, designers are the hardest part of a team to recruit, with some offering bounties in the thousands of dollars for referrals. The value of design is now widely understood.

Additional reading

If you’re interested in reading about usability in depth, usability guru Jakob Nielsen, has a brilliant 93 page report on the iPad. I also highly recommend the following books