Great men have always said that every chapter in life has something good to teach us. And today is the day when the world talks about Steve Jobs and his contribution to the personal computer, making available technology for the home user. He’s also been noted for a number of inventions including the Macintosh, the iPod, iPhone and iPad. He’s being accorded credit for creating Apple Inc. despite being away from the company for a good fifteen years, during the time when he also set up Pixar Animation Studios.
To the computing industry, his contributions remain unparalleled. I would also definitely like to acknowledge Gordon Moore for setting up Intel as this discussion is clearly focussed on design. Why we’re headed this way, is to understand a key take-away for social media from the legends of the computing industry.
If anyone does look inside micro-processors, the only keyword that would echo along each circuit would be design. Be it the age-old VLSI design methodology or the ultra-modern energy efficient 3-D integrated circuits, the entire product delivery of microchip technology which rests at the heart of computing is based on design.
And design was something that Steve was always passionate about. From the very first Apple I Hardware, he focussed on design breakthroughs. And these design breakthroughs were based on two aspects: (a) incredible attractiveness, and (b) simplicity of use.
Every product that Apple created over the years was focussed around these aspects. At first, there were many critics who shied away from investing in design and focussed on functionality, which often was complex for users to understand. What it ultimately meant was that the use of technology became limited to people who were trained on a particular platform or geeks who had the time and inclination to experiment with technology.
But what Apple delivered to the consumer was something different. The graphical user interface itself was the first step in this direction. It made computing tasks simple and easy to perform using mouse-clicks, to the part that the graphical user interface coupled with the mouse has more or less remained an industry standard at how people interact with computers.
We didn’t see Apple’s move towards touch-screen technology until the iPhone. And by that time, there were already many users who were shying away from this method of interacting with devices – just because it wasn’t good enough to do what was needed to do. But then, when Apple stepped in, another change happened. Using design at the core, and capacitative touch screens, the iPhone revolutionized the way people think about touch-screens and touch-screen technology. But technology alone wasn’t key here. What was key that the ease of use that it extended, putting real power at the fingertips of users. Icons would open applications and there were only these limited buttons on each screen that made perfect sense at using an application.
Now, where does social networking fit in. Although, it might seem there is no relation with design in social networking, but there is absolutely a very clear parallel. And that begins with a question, “do we really need training in order to use facebook?” And this sounds so true, because facebook has become such an integral part of society today, only for the part it is easy to understand and use. It is not a geek’s abode, as opposed to blogs of yesteryear and posting content on the web using html. Although the engine used by facebook is very particularly based on geeky languages, the end user interface is simple and easy to understand.
And that’s true not only for facebook, but even more for twitter. Or any other popular social networking site. Easy of simplicity and attractiveness of design are key in this industry. And this is the greatest take-away from Steve Jobs life – that in order to create products and services which people can use and relate with, they must be built with simplicity and great design, that allows people to interact with the back-end of the software or the hardware in a simple and easy to understand manner.