I recently engaged in a long conversation with Larry Port of Rocket Matter about the state of software design, and the common disconnect between programmers, marketeers and end users. It turns out Larry was a specialist in “usability studies” – the new buzz word in software design. He pointed me to TED. At that time I recalled a series of ABA Techshow and other presentations I made back in 2001 on how legal software should be evaluated. I reproduce my unedited article from 2001 below, with the caveat it is not Web 2.0 aware …. But will in the future revisit some of theses ideas, particularly in a forthcoming review in Technolawyer of RocketMatter.
In evaluating technology, I look for inspiration to the Greeks, and in particular the father of the gods on Mt. Olympus, none other than KRONOS. I use the following criteria in evaluating all technology:
• Keystroke Count. The tool must be easy to use. A subjective judgment on ease of use can be reduced to an empirical keystroke count. In comparing similar tools, count the number of keystrokes (or mouse clicks) require to accomplish regular tasks. The fewer the keystrokes, the better designed the software, and the more likely it will be used properly.
• Return on Investment. The tool must pay for itself in increased productivity, improved work product, greater client satisfaction, or more efficient organization and information retention. Don’t just look at price per seat. Look at the “total cost of ownership” (equipment requirements, training, support and customization) and compare it to the expected return on investment.
• Opulence and Intuitiveness. The tool must be “good looking”. An ugly interface is often a proxy for poorly designed and thrown together software. If the developer did not take the time to build an elegant and appealing interface, the developer may also not have taken the time to fully test and debug the software. Also, if the icons, menus, and screens are not intuitive, you may find yourself spending a fortune on training, and your users may never fully utilize the potential of the software.
• Networkability and Integration. The days of stand-alone PC’s are over. The tool must function in a networked environment, and allow multiple users to access the system simultaneously. And the tool should be able to communicate with other programs, sharing or exchanging data.
• Options and Customization. It should be easy to install software, with a single CD-ROM and a menu of options to allow you to configure the software installation for the requirements of your network/PC. A good software designer recognizes that each IP practice is unique, and should allow for some degree of customization, whether the addition of custom fields or the ability to modify or add new templates.
• Suitability for the Task. The tool must be designed for or configurable for the specific use desired by the practitioner. A general purpose case manager is a poor substitute for an IP portfolio database.