The Pizza Theory

Not so long ago in Making Sense we had the opportunity to create a mobile application. This application was developed not only for a big company, but also was going to be presented at the 2012 Microsoft BUILD Conference with Rackspace. In this particular post, I will write about achieving an outstanding User Experience when creating applications. However, if you wish to obtain more information on our presentation with Rackspace at Microsoft BUILD you can find it in Making Sense’s blog or the Rackspace one.

Despite of my busy schedule and some other difficulties, I still was lucky enough to participate in the development of this mobile application. At the beginning of the project, we obtained the requirements and analyzed the Rackspace systems in order to have a better idea of the work we had to perform. Also, we carried a meeting where we discussed scope, design, and user experience. Our CEO Cesar DOnofrio was part of the meeting and shared with us his opinion about the importance of the user experience by stating:

You must imagine the user of the application as someone who is at his house, holding a pizza in one hand, and using the application in his tablet on the other one. If it isn’t easy for him to use one hand and quickly realize what he needs to do, then we failed

The Pizza example stayed on my mind for quite a long time. I am sure all of you have some sort of experience mixing pizza and tactile devices. In many cases, in an attempt to avoid getting dirty, we end up using a single hand to eat. The other hand is usually busy while holding the device and trying to navigate it. Also, although we should all have a kitchen table to eat, many people end up eating with a single hand while placing their devices on their knees, feet, chairs, and many other similar objects.

If I am eating, watching TV or talking to someone, I don’t want an application to stop me from eating to make me think. What I really want to see are big red signs with skulls if something is not working properly or big and easy to read signs to know that everything is going okay. I want to enjoy big buttons that give me a clear idea of what happens if I press on them.

It is also important for the application to give you the possibility of making quick decisions that simplify your life. As we all already know, thinking can take a few minutes and requires to make an effort. Imagine that it is three o’clock in the morning and you get an email that requires you to make an important decision. This decision could mean the opportunity to save your company or to lose it (yes, this is the way system administration works). Would you rather concentrate and evaluate the options, or would you prefer for options to be clear and communicative?

It is important to develop applications that are easy to use. An app that is not user friendly or has a poor design drive users to make mistakes. After a bad experience with an application, a user may never return to it again or may even switch to a different one. Those people like us, who sell applications, take this issue as a very important one.

There are many people who have been able to develop applications that are fun to use and even addictive. There are many examples of this you can probably recall among applications you have already used in the past. Why did people choose those applications instead of other ones? Answers can certainly vary, but all of them count. I am sure you probably remember the trail against the Microsoft Corporation because of their pre-installation of Internet Explorer on Windows. Why was a trial like this worth if every person had indeed the opportunity to install the internet browser of their choice? The answer is that most people didn’t want to go through the inconvenience of choosing a specific browser, downloading it, and installing it. On the other hand, Microsoft claimed that it was simply to make internet user’s life easier, and the complainants claimed that the American multinational was trying to gain more customers with these actions. What do you think?

After all, the “pizza test” is convincing. Were you able to eat pizza and play Angry Birds? I was. Were you able to eat pizza and edit an excel document? I was. Were you able to write an entire article in a blog? I wasn’t.

Can you eat pizza and manage servers in Rackspace? Yes, and it was lots of fun!