Coping with radical novelty requires an orthogonal method. One must consider one's own past, the experiences collected, and the habits formed in it as an unfortunate accident of history, and one has to approach the radical novelty with a blank mind, consciously refusing to try to link it with what is already familiar, because the familiar is hopelessly inadequate. One has, with initially a kind of split personality, to come to grips with a radical novelty as a dissociated topic in its own right. Coming to grips with a radical novelty amounts to creating and learning a new foreign language that can not be translated into one's mother tongue. (Any one who has learned quantum mechanics knows what I am talking about.) Needless to say, adjusting to radical novelties is not a very popular activity, for it requires hard work. For the same reason, the radical novelties themselves are unwelcome.
By now, you may well ask why I have paid so much attention to and have spent so much eloquence on such a simple and obvious notion as the radical novelty. My reason is very simple: radical novelties are so disturbing that they tend to be suppressed or ignored, to the extent that even the possibility of their existence in general is more often denied than admitted.
OnStartups.com offers a short explanation of the importance of usability to a startup's prospects, framed as an argument that founders should be developers first, and usability experts second.
#1. Developer. If a web startup has only one founder, it should be a brilliant developer. And by a developer, I mean a developer — someone who can produce, release and maintain working code. Not a CTO or “architect”. Not someone who thinks they can recruit developers or someone who knows someone who runs a development shop in Croatia. An actual developer.
#2. Designer / UI / UX person. If the startup has two founders, the other founder should be a brilliant designer-type. By this, I mean someone that can take a problem that humans have and come up with a software solution that humans want to use — repeatedly and delightedly. I think great design talent has always been useful in a software company — now, it’s become crucial.
#3. Inbound Marketer. If the startup has three founders, the third one should be an inbound marketer. An inbound marketer is someone who is good at pulling people in (vs. pushing a message out). I decidedly don’t mean someone that’s good at spending a marketing budget on advertising to try and find people that are interested. I mean someone that will create remarkable content that will attract traffic, users and customers.
#4. Sales Person. If there’s a fourth founder on the team (which I’m not a big fan of by the way), it might be useful to have a sales person. And, remember, startups don’t need a VP of Sales — they need actual sales.
Curiously, other than mentioning its effect on sales, the article overlooks the benefits of usability to cash flow. Viral word-of-mouth, increased sign-up rate, reduced churn, and lower support costs, all stretch your startup dollar farther. This is why startup needs a business co-founder. Your usability won't get used if you don't have the cash flow to let users keep using...
“Complexity should be abstracted, synthesized down to the simplest possible interface for instant gratification, with the shortest possible learning curve—that is the wave of the future.”
Michael Okuda's and Gene Roddenberry's emphasis on ease of use as driving factor behind technology made their devices seem prescient. I enjoyed this Ars Technica discussion of Star Trek's PADD versus today's iPad, and what happens when the software defines how the device can be used.
Interestingly, Okuda notes part of his emphasis on simplicity originally came from budget constraints. This is another example of my theory that price vs performance need not be a trade off. By aiming for simplicity and elegance instead, technologists can achieve higher performance at a lower cost.