About a year ago I saw a google executive, Vince Chirico speak on a panel at a local conference. One of the things that stuck out from that session was what he said about Google’s philosophy on how it builds new applications. He said:
Google focuses on Utility, Usability, and Monetization. And in that order
Every Google application has had deep thought given to what features would be best. Once the application is near feature complete, they look at usability. Usability is the secondary priority.
I was chatting with John McRee, one of the authors of Effective UI: The Art of Building Great User Experience in Software, about how that model is a bit broken. And, more importantly, how they are missing a critical piece of developing effective software, user experience. We often talk about the difference between usability and user experience and John just blogged about it. Well worth a read.
But even if Google’s divine trinity is good enough for them, is it in the right order? Should usability come after utility? I think if you are evaluating an application you can say that without utility is is not useful. But I would argue that without usability, it does not offer utility. When developing software, shouldn’t we have the conversation about utility and usability at the same time? And can’t we do better? Can’t we also make the software enjoyable?