Does the Future of IT Depend on How Invisible It Will Be to Users?
Recent data by the web analytics firm comScore revealed that Google led the explicit core search market in the US with 64.5 percent market share, followed by Microsoft Bing with 19.8 percent. While Google's dominance in search is assumed, Bing—though a distant second—seems to be finding creative ways to narrow the lead.
A Time article discusses Microsoft's clever plan to get users to love Bing and several recent cases where Microsoft enabled users to use Bing without even realizing it. Bing is the default search engine for Amazon Kindle Fire devices, and even though Apple said that it’s using its own web-crawler Applebot to index the web for Siri, Siri uses Bing to conduct searches. When a user asks Siri to search the web, Bing plays its role beneath the surface without anyone knowing it.
As Bing's general manager Ryan Gavin says in the Time article, “We fundamentally believe that as search evolves, it will move well beyond the point where I launch a browser and type a query into a search box."
Microsoft's plan to launch Windows 10 will add to making search more intuitive than ever. Such intuitiveness is often referred to as the software playing the role so quietly, it's almost as if it is invisible. Bing was not the first search engine to embrace invisibility.
In an insightful LinkedIn article, Paul Petrone refers to the book What Would Google Do and talks about Google embracing invisibility as a conscious endeavor towards making user experience more meaningful and minimalist. Unlike the Yahoo and AOL websites, Google's website is almost noiseless; it’s almost as if Google doesn’t want to distract users from what they actually set out to do. As an example, with Google Chrome, users can simply type the search query in the address bar without first navigating to google.com.
As to why Google would want to stay invisible, Petrone suggests that it is because Google doesn't want people to have an opinion about it. "...even if they were good opinions – other companies could take advantage. Instead, by just sort of fading into the background, people use Google almost by default."
It’s no secret that Apple, through its beautifully designed products, brought the user experience to the core of the company's strategy. Concepts such as invisibility take the notion of user experience focus to the next level. It’s not only applicable to software but also may have had its origin in hardware simplification. Microsoft is investing a lot in invisible user interface technology to take on its competitors.
In her book Make Your Mark: The Creative's Guide to Building a Business with Impact, Jocelyn K. Glei talks about how to tap into the power of invisible design and mentions that, "The new products and services tend to achieve better ease of use by shifting toward “invisible design”—cutting out entire steps, ditching whole surface areas, or relying on existing patterns instead of inventing new ones."
While IT may be getting more and more invisible to users, it can be best achieved by adopting commonsense tactics above anything else.
Do you agree?