If you take a look across the many applications that Media-X has developed over the years, you will find that almost all of them are replacements for traditional pen and paper based work. Our report card system, data collection tools and staff evaluation forms all have deep, paper based roots. For almost two decades we have been providing these software based solutions and the old days of pen and paper grow more and more distant with each passing year. This however, does not mean we’ve forgotten.
There is a danger when developing software, a tendency to over engineer and grow a software product beyond what it was intended to do. Anyone who has used a modern software suite likely knows what I’m talking about (I’m looking at you MS Adobe). Developers love to write code and designers love to design but all of this love can easily end up spoiling a perfectly good program with cumbersome, slow features.
To keep this trend in check over the years at Media-X, we’ve developed a method, or maybe something that might better described as a mantra. Whenever we develop a new feature, we try to find a quiet moment, stop what we are doing, and ask the question:
“Would it be faster to do this using a pen and paper?”
This might sound silly at first, but it really does do wonders for grounding your software in reality and ensuring that whatever “great thing” you think you are adding to the application is truly practical and efficient. This is especially relevant when we put our energies towards developing our mobile software. If your tablet software is slower than working with paper, you have a big problem.
Here is something that we’ve recently done to the system when we asked the question “Would it be faster to do this with pen and paper?” and found we we weren’t happy with the answer.
In the Manage View section of eWalk, our support team here noticed that it was taking a grand total of five mouse clicks to go from the starting menu of the application to get the point where you had started your form and were entering your data. Five clicks!
Off in the corner, Pen and Paper stood smugly laughing at us, giving each other high-fives and calling us names.
We went back to the drawing board and spent a great deal of time whittling down the number of clicks it might take. From five, to four to three. All the time, looking nervously over our shoulders at Pen and Paper, feeling inadequate.
Eventually, hard work won the day. We’ve now built in a brand new short cut feature for all users of views in eWalk. You can select any form and have a shortcut button presented to you, right from the main menu. Five clicks, down to one click.
Lesson of the day: While your forge ahead with technology, keep yourself grounded by always keeping a healthy respect for traditional methods of doing things.