New and Improved

New Coke, the poster child for new and improved gone horribly wrong.

New Coke

The software arena has many such tales of trying to improve on something that just plain works. For the most part, changes alienate long time users and does nothing to spur new interest because of the negative comments that ensue.

In today’s social web, user comments make or break your application. The code behind your desktop or web app has less to do with it’s success, than that of the user’s perception.

Let’s look at some examples:

  • ACDSee started off as this lean and mean photo management app. On old hardware, you could organize thousands of images in no time, but they decided to make it prettier and add more features, severely bloating it. These days, we use XnView or IrfanView.
  • Nero was at one time the de facto CD burning app, but alas they decided to turn it into a full multimedia experience for the new user. For those of us that just want to burn a CD or DVD with little fanfare, we use ImgBurn.
  • Skype is now the VOIP leader, but that’s about to change. You see their new 5.x version, with a new and improved look and Facebook connectivity is pissing users off left and right. The memory usage has drastically increased and Facebook spam is on the rise. So we’re heading to FileHippo and downgrading until we can find an alternative.
  • Digg was at one time the social news site that everyone went to for the latest happenings, that is until the v4 upgrade. Virtually overnight, it lost the majority of it’s users, the upgrade went horribly wrong. The cool kids are now on reddit.

So does new and improved work for software? I say no, I say what got you your audience is what they want. Improving on that experience, or should I say changing the experience is fraught with peril. Google has never changed their clean crisp home page for a reason, it works and that’s just fine by us. Ba da bing, ba da boom!

Come on and let me off to a better way
Open up a smile on another’s face
So I can feel something new