Home > User Interfaces > Why more incompatible software might be easier to learn

Why more incompatible software might be easier to learn

I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon during this development cycle at work.  I’m working on a product that has 97% functionality in common with one of our older, more established products.  The differences, few though they may be, are necessary and not insignificant.  What I’ve noticed is because there are so few differences, people assume they can understand the product without learning the differences, then get frustrated and confused when those differences don’t behave exactly like the older product.

The interesting part is I’ve worked with these same people on other projects with much more extensive changes, and in general they have been able to follow them easily.  In other words, 50% changes are no problem, but 3% changes throw them all off.

It reminds me somewhat of uncanny valley. I wonder if it means certain open source software would have more success by completely breaking from their commercial counterpart’s interface rather than be a 97% clone.

Where else have you observed that principle in action?

Categories: User Interfaces
  1. Jon Holdsworth
    December 15, 2010 at 11:39 pm

    Gimp departing from Adobe springs to mind. Its right-click/tear-off ergonomics are completely divorced from PS though its functional spread is about the same. As such, its a straight learn rather than an unlearn-then-learn’er.

  2. August 1, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    It’s hard to come by well-informed people for this topic, but you seem like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks

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