The first thing anyone will notice about any software is the user interface. In the space of a few seconds to a few minutes, a user will be pleased, nonplussed, or disgusted. A good user interface and intuitive user experience always translates into happy users. This automatically means better retention, less churn, and more referrals. Think back to 2004 and the early days of GMail–everyone was clamoring for an invite because of how much better it was than existing email solutions.
Our philosophy at Loxo is to focus first and foremost on making users happy. Hand-in-hand with providing unmatched customer service, the best way to do this is by making software that works the first time and does the right thing every time. If a button does not do what it’s expected to do, that’s a problem. A good user experience translates into lower training costs, a smaller learning curve, and an overall faster workflow. We win because our customers are happy and they win because they hit the ground running from day one with no training or sunk cost.
This user-pleasing philosophy echoes throughout Loxo. Instead of providing endless buttons and filters, we have a powerful search. After all, who wants to open a list of location filters and hunt through them when typing “Denver, CO” into a search box is enough? Another example is how we expose functionality that is rarely used; these things go into a quick list of shortcuts that most people never ask about. This way the power users are happy with their sharp toolkit and the casual users are happy with their simple workflow. In other places, advanced functionality only comes up when hovering over a certain piece of content. When software intuitively helps along the way to a goal, that’s really pleasing.
Doing all of this right presents a challenge. Sure it’s easy to just throw in every button and checkbox in the world, but we would feel embarrassed to force our users to stare at a monstrosity. Every feature we add leads to our core team sitting down and asking difficult questions of each other. Who do we want to be? What are our goals? Does this fit in with our vision and mission? There are a lot of hard questions that need to be answered every time we add a new feature. The second-hardest part of this is deciding a feature doesn’t belong and then saying no. The hardest part is removing an existing feature that no longer fits into the puzzle.
The end result is that our users are happy and we are happy. They have an easier time doing their job which frees up time for them to enjoy their lives. Even though our internal conversations are harder, we have an easier time maintaining Loxo–after all, software tends to reflect its user interface to at least some extent. A clean user interface and sensible user experience hint at a good software architecture. It’s certainly not easy, but nothing worth doing is ever easy, especially when the goal is to build world-class software.