Four Worst Design Decisions; If It’s Not Broke, Don’t Fix It
In my talks about legacy systems, one of things that I’ve mentioned time and time again is how much time and effort can go into training old employees on new systems. This is not because old people are resistant to change; some young people, like myself, don’t handle it too well either. It’s just that sometimes, when a company makes changes to a product, their decisions are less than stellar.
1. Windows 8
I’m going to start with the most obvious; Windows 8 was a disaster. For whatever reason, Microsoft decided that they would make a mobile OS for a desktop computer, and somehow, it made it through testing. While we’re all used to navigating a smartphone style layout on an actual smartphone, no one was really prepared to see it on a computer screen. The new Start Menu confused and baffled. There were live tiles that were touch activated – but few at the time had computers with touch capable screens.
I turn my computer and it runs an update, the start screen is a mess because it’s Windows 8, and I scream at the top of my lungs,
“What’s going on??”
In the grand scheme of things, Windows did not need a complete redesign to stay fun and funky fresh. Luckily, Windows 10 came along quickly and reverted all those awful errors while bringing a newer, modern look to the operating system. Thanks, Microsoft, for listening to your users and fixing your mistakes.
2. Alphabetical Keyboards
There’s a widely believed myth that the QWERTY keyboard layout was designed to reduce the amount of jamming in typewriters. The truth is that Christopher Sholes, the one who designed the QWERTY keyboard, worked with a number of typists in order to determine the exact layout of keys that would enable them to type quickly with both hands. There have been attempts over time to move away from the QWERTY keyboard, like the Dvorak keyboard or even just plain alphabetical keyboards, but in the end, QWERTY still reigns supreme. Why?
Because it’s the way we’ve always used keyboards, and getting people to change old habits is a bit like pulling teeth.
3. Facebook Home
In a time when Android vs iPhone is the cellphone industry’s hottest debate, there was only one company bold enough to ask, “Why not Facebook?”
One of the first Sholes and Glidden typewriters. If you squint, you can see that familiar QWERTY layout on the keys.
It was Facebook, of course, and no, they didn’t make a cellphone line of their own. They just… created an operating system, called it an app, and stuck it on the Android app store. Now, granted, the cellphone manufacturer HTC did team up with Facebook to sell phones with the app pre-installed, but that didn’t really last very long. Why did Facebook Home fail so horribly?
Well, it was developed by iPhone users. And the reason there’s such a big debate whether iPhones or Androids are better is because people want and expect certain features on their cellphones. iPhone users are content with whatever is handed to them, while Android Master Race users expect a wide range of customizability through features such as docks, folders, and widgets. So while the iPhone developers saw nothing wrong with the vast, unrelenting Facebookness of it all, Android users were enraged to find that basically everything that made their phone their phone was gone.
4. Apple iPhones
Okay, to be fair, my gripe isn’t with all of the iPhone line; the first couple iPhones existed and they were probably fine. I’ve never used an iPhone before, so I don’t know. But in September 2016, the iPhone 7 was unveiled, and it did not have a headphone jack.
Listen. I know that iPhones come with a lightning adaptor, and I am sure that iPhone users have adapted. I know there are hundreds of bluetooth headsets out there that work great. But having to include a dongle just so that your product works seems unnecessarily complicated to me, and the option of buying additional accessories adds extra effort from the consumer.
Sure, it comes with an adapter, but in an ideal world, it shouldn’t need to.
I know what you’re thinking. This doesn’t even affect you, Oh Mighty Android User, but when Apple makes a design decision, it tends to spread to other companies like mint taking over an herb garden. The Pixel 2 doesn’t have a headphone jack, after all. I’m sure that in a few years, we will conveniently forget headphone jacks ever existed in a few years, as technology advances and bluetooth becomes more common place. But for now, it’s an adjustment. One that will take time, effort, and extra purchases to patch in old features that we still need and regularly use.
Out of all the products on this list, the headphone jack most closely resembles a legacy system. With the way so many companies are removing it from their flagship phones, by this time next year, it may, in fact, be a legacy system. So while new products are often shiny and packed full of new features, making them highly alluring, they’re not always worth investing in. Sometimes, it’s better to stick to what you have, as long as it’s not broken.