The power of ownership: Why themes matter

Posted on January 31st, 2007 in Product design by siddharta || No Comment

Theming, the ability to change the look of your product doesn’t matter. Right? Wrong!

In one sense, the ability to change the look of your software, the colours and the graphics and the fonts, is the most frivolous of features. It adds zero functionality to the product. Worse, most users are not designers and end up creating terrible themes. Why allow the users to mess it up when you could get your team of ultra-talented desingers to create a look that works for everyone?

Because software is used by humans, not machines, and humans have a craving for personalisation. Personalisation allows the user to feel like the software is theirs.

A lot of people have figured this out for consumer software. I can theme my GUI, change my shell, even mod my PC. And dont even get me started on mobile phones. Did you know that people actually pay money to change the way their phone rings? Of course you did. A few billion dollars worth of money. Just to change the way it sounds when a call comes in. Then add in all the other non-tech stuff that people like to personalise, like cars, homes, and even their own bodies.

So people love to personalise. It could be something as simple as ringtones or as complex as the case mods. The product looks the way we want it to look, it reflects our identity. Personalisation at any level allows us to feel a connection to the product we use. Ultimately, a positive connection between user and product is what keep the user feeling happy about using the product. Any feature that creates this positive response is a feature worth having, and personalisation is one of those.

All that is great for consumer software, I hear you say. What about business software? Traditional thinking is that business software should be functional, not aesthetic. When we think about business, the words that come to mind are “boring”, “uniform”, “standard”. As a result, business software is usually just that. Boring, uniform and standard. But you know what? Business software is also used by… humans! Admittedly to do boring business tasks, but that’s no reason for business software to be faceless. Why can’t the software wear the company colours? Why can’t the software look different for evey team? Why is it so damn difficult to theme most business software?

Maybe one day we will have business software that can be easily themed. Business software that we feel is ours. Business software that we fell that we own. Business software that is actually fun to use. Maybe one day.

Doing Distributed Agile?

Share and collaborate with distributed teams with our electronic agile board tools. Get all the benefits of electronic tools without sacrificing the benefits of physical boards. Supports Scrum taskboards, Kanban boards and user story maps. Check it out!

Leave a Reply