In 1941, a small rivet was removed from Levi’s iconic 501 jeans, and for a very good reason. And creating a perfect button, or recognizing an imperfect one, is also a common challenge for software developers. Good developers take pains over buttons and functionality because they know that one button can make the difference between frustration or a great user experience. Buying the right legal software is an important, but often overwhelming, decision. Recognizing a good developer is key to your legal technology decision making, and will save you time, money, and frustration.
A good software developer (in any field), will do their best to make sure that the technology doesn’t get in its own way. If you’re buying software, you should be simplifying your life, not complicating it. Yet, everyone has had an experience where, even after hours of training, the purchased software was just unwieldy at best, and at worst plain unusable. Or perhaps you’ve bought software and learned to use it, only to forget important functions and features when you picked it back up after training. In those times, don’t blame yourself for not being tech savvy, ask why the developer made it so difficult to use in the first place.
Buttons Aren't Just Sartorial Details
Why was the 501 rivet removed in 1941? Levi’s noticed that, even though it added significant durability, in practice the jeans were painfully unusable. In software, too, buttons are important details. They reveal the developer’s level of attention to detail, as well as their commitment to your user experience. Only buttons for key functions should be obvious and self explanatory, contributing to the overall usability of the software. Too many feature buttons will, like the jeans, create painfully unusable software. A well-developed app will have the additional features, but they will be secondary, and will be found upon deeper exploration of the app. This provides an instant understanding of the interface, and a natural progression into an expert use level. One clue that you might not be using a “usable” app is a plethora of multicolored options. Visual clutter is confusingly hard to learn, and later harder to remember. Haven't we all thought, "Which button do I press to…?"
Right Click Is So 90’s
With the advent of multi-platform technology (desktop, cloud, tablet, etc.), the right click of the 90’s is seriously outdated. Instead of right click menu drop downs, usability is greatly enhanced in an app that allows you to press and hold (while on a tablet), or hover to reveal (on a desktop). Obvious links also make an interface clean, while subtly letting you know that there’s more to see should you so choose.
Many purchasing platforms, like the App Store, allow you to see not only when the version of the software you are about to buy was created, but how many times and how often it has been updated. Frequent updates are a good thing. It shows active involvement on the part of the developer, and an ability on the developer's part to respond not just to issues, but to listen to and implement user requests. With the speed of development of hardware platforms, as well as operating systems themselves, apps that see infrequent updates should be avoided altogether.
Support might be most important, and is probably the toughest to evaluate before you purchase. The fact is that even with very well designed software, you may just have a question. Reaching out to current users in person or via an online user group is a good way to find out, and here are some questions you should ask: Is there a manual, or an onboarding guide when you first use the software that you can go to for quick reference? If not, when you contact the developer, what is their reputation for getting back to customers? Will you be interacting with a person or be filed into a behemoth help queue, only to finally speak with a robot of some kind? Will you be “offshored”?
Why The Rivet Was Removed?
All the above is great for getting started. Conferences like ABA TECHSHOW in Chicago are great venues for talking to experts and getting a hands on feel for the software you need. When you go, have the above in mind, and if it's too much to remember all of it, the story of Levi's misplaced rivet should stick with you. You see, while the jeans were wonderfully comfortable, and rugged enough to be worn for days, when Cowboys that wore them gathered around a campfire, the durable little metal rivet at the crotch seam could heat up quickly and proved to be pretty painful. Check out the Levi's ad that tells the story. Buttons are important after all...