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Hide the nerd knobs

By Katie Staveley | Dec 18, 2013

by Rick Clarkson, VP of Product Management

I don’t know of a single person that likes to read product manuals or attend product-training courses – especially when it comes to software.  Pretty boring stuff that’s impossible to navigate, tons of obscure features I will never use, and often a smattering of incorrect information (nobody’s fault, it’s just that products are changing so fast it’s nearly impossible for tech writers and instructors to keep up).

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately especially considering how many SaaS products I use (Box, Facebook, Linked-in, Snapfish, Skype, Salesforce… the list goes on).  I manage to use the features I need from these services without any training or manuals.  Admittedly some are easier than others.

Although I try to keep my personal and business worlds separate it’s almost impossible in this era of BYOD and ubiquitous mobility.   For this reason I’ve come to expect my work tools to be just as easy to use as my personal tools.  If I can figure out how to use them on my own, I use them, otherwise I find something else.

I suspect I’m not alone here.  Usability has become critical in today’s SaaS world because when the services are unusable they fail.   What’s the key to succeeding?  In my opinion, hide the “nerd knobs.”  Nerds please don’t take offense.  I’m a former nerd; my family thinks I still am so I guess it’s open for debate.

Companies that provide powerful SaaS offerings get tremendous viral growth when products are easy to use (among other things).  The advanced features are still attractive to users but with proper UX and UI design in front of them – ie. hiding the nerd knobs with elegant and simple design.  Over the last couple of years at Signiant we have strived to make our powerful file transfer technology available and packaged for a much wider audience (Media Shuttle).   Although Media Shuttle is a powerful, enterprise solution we have designed it to deliver usability paralleled by consumer SaaS offerings loved by many.

Our ultimate goal was to give our customers a simple solution where no training is required.  And it was our investment in extensive user interface design with a “hide the nerd knob mentality” that has helped us bring our vision to market.  So far our customers have had an extremely positive response…

The amazing thing about Media Shuttle is that even with all its power and security, it’s still an absolute breeze to use.”
– Ely Garcia, CTO of Cisneros

  “Media Shuttle is as intuitive as it looks. There’s no need for me to send out emailed instructions on how to use it – I send a link, the client clicks on it, they retrieve the file from our branded portal, and the transfer is done.”
– Roy Machado, Owner or Dallas Audio Post