One Good App Changes Everything

The problem is, not all apps are good.

One Good App Changes Everything

The problem is, not all apps are good.

how we got here

One of the great challenges for anything we create as a species is the people with a good sense of how that creation should be built could often care less about the experience of using it. For generations, engineering students were measured on the ability of their work to preform, not the aesthetics of their output.

We often see that successful solutions are often because of a successful pairing between an engineer’s brain and a user experience’s brain. Steve Wozniak was clearly the engineering brain in the early days of Apple and Steve Jobs was the relentless visionary eager to craft a good user experience.

I use several Apple products and I don’t always agree with the user experience the team in Cupertino designed… but at least they’ve been designing the relationship between man and machine as an experience for decades.

unnecessarily picking on Redmond

In contrast, Microsoft seems to just be getting around to the idea of designing an experience… but they seem to be missing things.

  • The Surface Laptop Studio has a mode that covers up the keyboard but doesn’t allow you to adjust the angle of the screen. I have no idea who this mode is designed for.
  • When Windows 11 was released it was supposed to have the start button centered. There’s just one problem. The button wasn’t centered. The application doc was centered. This means that every time you add an app to the dock your main button you need to find things moves on you.

The list could be longer for Microsoft’s missteps. I’m always fascinated by how much smaller shops can do so well in comparison. There’s not a single linux distribution that has the resources of Microsoft, but quite a number of them will seem to deliver better results in the design decisions they ship. Oh, and where Microsoft only has 3 desktop environments it has to maintain the linux community literally has hundreds.

why good apps are needed

All applications exist to solve a problem or product an output. The process of creating this output shouldn’t be an unpleasant experience. The more pleasant it is the more likely people are going to engage in creating that output. There are trade offs of course. I know of an IT department that selected machines that have an unreliable trackpad experience. 5,000+ employees used external mice as a result. It’s hard to measure the loss of productivity, but few of those 5,000 employees enjoyed the experience when they had to move their laptop to a conference room and either brought their mouse with them or used the inconsistent trackpad.

The trackpad-mouse experience shows there are downstream consequences for various choices. People adapt when things are uncomfortable.

I tend to enjoy writing. This means I’ve spent a lot of time in word-processing applications. I started with Word Perfect, then Microsoft Word in the early 1990s. I used Word all the way up until Google Docs emerged. I wrote several of my books in Word. But Word wasn’t a good experience for writing books.

For example, when you’re 45 pages in and close the doc and want to reopen it, Word doesn’t remember where you left off at and show you that page. You have to keep scrolling until you get to the bottom.

When you write for actual print the formatting solutions that are constantly in your face in Word (thanks to the ribbon design) are pretty useless. In those situations, it’s about text input, not about formatting.

Word feels like it’s only designed for one style of publishing…. Default paper size. Sure, you can export (in the default paper size) as a PDF or a Word doc, but today most of the content doesn’t go to a printed page. I prefer my text be publication agnostic until right before it has to be published.

one good app

In contrast, Ulysses is a good app. I can write the way I think. I can publish with little to no mental effort. I can focus on content.

Ulysses’s modern workflow doesn’t always sync with the older workflows of other applications. So, I switched to Ghost. In finding the correct app to enable this workflow I’ve switched from SquareSpace, Wordpress, and Digital Ocean (hosting). Now I’m using Ghost on their lowest tier. My website responds faster and is easier to publish than it ever has been.

Sure I could use the writing tools built into other apps, or I could use one that really feels like it gets out of the way… Ulysses. Remember how many devices we used to carry prior to our smart phones? They didn’t even have a keyboard! How dare they. Now I’m typing in an app that doesn’t care what the page size is.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s because we’ve gotten to the point where page size doesn’t matter anymore and the apps that acknowledge this are the ones that are getting my business.