Product Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

by Oct 15, 2016

I'm sure you have all heard the phrase "Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder". It's something we learn when we are young, that everyone is different and yet special in his or her own way. And the way we see and judge what's beautiful depends on our own unique perspective in life. This varied perspective on beauty makes the world an interesting place. When we understand that beauty is a function of our perceptions as formed by our experiences in life, we learn to look at others in a new way and are generally more happy and successful in life.

OK, so maybe you are now thinking this is a mushy post about love and unity in the world and are likely asking yourself, what in the world does this have to do with enterprise software?!? Keep reading and you will find out!

Product Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder


If you are reading this blog, you are likely a user of some form of enterprise B2B software. Maybe you have been using such software throughout your career in technology … and if so, you likely have developed some strong opinions about what makes for good software, yes, even beautiful software. Your perceptions of that software are uniquely yours. Think of this as your user perspective.

In software development, understanding our users is critical to creating beautiful software. Inside of a software company, there are many different roles that try to understand users from sales to marketing to customer support. But no function is as important as product management when it comes to understanding a user's perspective. A product manager must get to know the current and potential users of any product she manages. Ideally, she should observe users in their workplace, as they use products to solve actual problems or achieve specific goals. Alternatively, the product manager can conduct interviews with users. The goal of these interactions is to understand customer problems. A customer problem is not the same thing as a product problem like "I wish the buttons were larger" or "I get an error when I do this".

A good product manager will figure out what the users needs to do for his or her job. Perhaps the user's boss wants a report every Monday. Or quarter end financial reporting requires certain database transaction speed. These are simply examples of problems users face, without regard for any specific software that could help them with this problem. The product manager has many such interactions with users and then classifies these problems by the user type, which we call a persona. Some of the top personas that IDERA serves include DBAs, IT specialists, data modelers, developers, just to name a few. We expect each of our product managers to relentlessly pursue an understanding of some persona's problems. When we do a good job, we can deliver something beautiful to the beholder – the user.

The best software is designed from a deep understanding of the user since not all perspectives are equal in B2B software. For example, I personally might prefer to work from my smartphone, but if my users prefer to work from a three screen HiDPI desktop workstation, I will fail if I build what I like. I need to build what you like. And I need to build something that solves your problems or you won't care. If your boss requires a summary report in her inbox each Monday and I give you the required info in a web dashboard that you must page through screen after screen, copying to a separate file before giving to your boss, I have misunderstood your problem. You will not find it beautiful because I did not understand you, the beholder of that product.

Next time you use one of our products or any of the other B2B products at your company, think to yourself "Did the product manager who designed this product get me as a user?" If the answer is yes, send the product team a note thanking them for a good job. If not, send them a note telling them they got you all wrong. Either way, make time to speak to product managers. Give them a chance to see inside your world. When you do, you will get more beautiful software to work with.