The odd bit

Once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, three times is an enemy action.

The odd bit - Once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, three times is an enemy action.

Marketing: Looks vs Functionality

I’m not a fan of marketing departments (too much blah blah) but I’m feeling rather frisky so I’ll write a post about two marketing strategies I’ve been able to observe first hand. This little adventure takes place in the wonderful world of software…
The first strategy is to make the looks of an application one of the primary selling points. The goal is to make the user interface sleek, sexy, shiny, … In other words, the interface should be so appealing that potential customers may be persuaded to buy the product when just seeing a demo.

The second strategy is to sell your product based on what it can do. Not what it should be able to do, but what it really can do. Important here are flexibility and our of the box functionality, but also extensibility. Potential customers should be persuaded to buy the product based on the feature list.

In most cases, there’s a mix of both strategies but the careful observer will notice one of them has the upper hand.

I’ve worked with the same piece of software for years. The creators just had to go with the feature list because the out-of-the-box looks were not quite up to par. But it meant nearly total freedom. It has its flaws which are a bit irritating when you’ve worked with the package for some time, but there are ways around them exactly because of the freedom they give to developers.

Recently, we had to switch to a new software package. Clearly leaning to the first strategy, it seemed rather okay on a first impression. But a demo is not as good as practical experience and that’s where the bubble of the first strategy bursts. It’s rather poor under the hood, especially when you’re used to a lot of freedom. Everything’s fine as long as you stay within the out-of-the-box lines, but it feels more like hacking instead of developing/programming as soon as you need something custom.

I’m not putting a name on the two products, but I’m quite sure some of the people reading this will know what I mean. And it should be pretty clear what I prefer 😉

Category: Software, Technology
  • Kristof Coomans says:

    Hi Hans

    It’s probably not only a question of looks vs. functionality, but also a question of closed source (black box) vs. open source (white box). If you know what happens under the hood, it’s easier to extend existing functionality or to find a way around certain limitations.

    20 March 2007 at 08:27

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