designing interaction for creative pros /1
7 May 2015, 19:23
see what I mean?
‘So what’s Metapolator?’ you might ask. Well, there is a definition for that:
‘Metapolator is an open web tool for making many fonts. It supports working in a font design space, instead of one glyph, one face, at a time.
‘With Metapolator, “pro” font designers are able to create and edit fonts and font families much faster, with inherent consistency. They gain unique exploration possibilities and the tools to quickly adapt typefaces to different media and domains of use.
‘With Metapolator, typographers gain the possibility to change existing fonts—or even create new ones—to their needs.
‘Metapolator is extendible through plugins and custom specimens. It contains all the tools and fine control that designers need to finish a font.’
One of the key questions answered in a product vision is: who is this for? And with that, I have arrived at what this blog post is about:
Products need a clear, narrow definition of their target users groups. Software for creatives needs a clear definition whether it is for professionals, or not.
Checking the vision, we see that Metapolator user groups are well defined. They are ‘“pro” font designers’ and ‘typographers.’ The former are pro by definition and the latter come with their own full set of baggage; they are pro by implication.
define it like a pro
But what does pro actually mean? And why is it in quotes in the Metapolator vision? Well, the rather down‐to‐earth definition of professional—earning money with an occupation—is not helping us here. There are many making‐the‐rent professionals who are terrible hacks at what they do.
Instead it is useful to think of pros as those who have mastered a craft—a creative craft in our case. Examples of these are drawing, painting; photographing, filming, writing, animating, and editing these; sewing, the list goes on and on.
Making software for creative pros means making it for those who have worked at least 10.000 hours in that field, honing their craft. And also making it for for the apprentices and journeymen who are working to get there. These two groups do not need special ‘training wheels’ modes; they just need to get their hands dirty with the real thing.
The real world just called and left a message:
making it for pros comes at a price.
First of all, it is very demanding—I will cover this in the follow‑up posts. Second, it puts some real limits on who else you can make it for. Making it for…
- is perfectly focussed, to meet those demanding needs.
- pros + enthusiasts
- (the latter also known as prosumers.) This compromises how good one can make it for pros; better keep in check how sprawling that enthusiast faction is allowed to be.
pros + enthusiasts + casual users
- forget it, because pros and casual have diametrically opposite needs. There is no room in the UI for both, and with room I mean screen real estate and communication bandwidth.
pros + casual users
- for the same reasons one can royally forget about this one too. Enough said.
You might think: ‘duh, that speaks for itself, just make the right choice and roll with it.’ If it was only that easy. My experience has been that projects really do not like to commit here, especially when they know the consequences outlined above. And when they did make a choice, I have seen the natural tendency to worm out of it later.
I guess that having clear goals is scary for quite a few folks. Having focussed user groups means saying ‘we don’t care about you’ to vast groups of people. Only the visionary think of that as positive.
Furthermore, clear goals are a fast and effective tool to weed out bad ideas, on an industrial scale. That’s good for the product, but upsets the people who came up with these ideas. So they renegotiate on the clear goals, attacking the root of the rejection.
In short: define it; is your software for creatives made for pros, or not? Then compile a set of coherent user groups. In the case of Metapolator the ‘pro’ font designers and typographers fit together beautifully. Once defined, stick with it.
That’s it for part one. Here is part two: a tale of cars.
[editor’s note: Gee Peter, this post contains a lot of talk about pros, but where is the creative angle?] True, the gist this post is valid for all professionals. The upcoming parts will feature more ‘creative’ content, more Metapolator, and illustrations.
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