This post is a follow-on to my original post: Elegant Products Make us Take Tech for Granted (Part I). In this post I’ll attempt to lift the hood a bit and reveal some of the exciting drivers of some of our favorite products.
I have recently been working on an online search platform product and have come to appreciate that feats like parsing billions of pieces of data are not just the result of raw hardware firepower, but a combination of hardware, design, and thoughtful requirements.
As “car guy,” I can’t resist the comparison of consumer software/tech to the automotive experience. Like tech products we (mostly) view new cars as reliable appliances and trust that they won’t leave us stranded on the side of the road playing shade-tree mechanic. Since most of us are not frequently stuck fixing our cars, we’re not truly aware of what’s under the hood and how it all works.
The same goes for our tech lives, aside from the occasional CTRL-ALT-DEL, things generally work, and they work so well that we have no idea how much complexity is involved.
Take a look at these two eco-system maps (yes, it’s a car but it’s still essentially an ecosystem map): both display the basic systems, that, when working together, make the product function as designed. When not working together, the components have little value — a sweet V8 engine can’t do sweet, sweet burnouts without a functioning interface to a fuel system. Likewise, even the most powerful search engine can’t return results without an interface to a linguistics processor.
Although speed and scale requires raw power, it’s all dependent on the interfaces that enable the system to work as a whole. If you look under the hood, it’s not just hardware — its software and requirements. It’s the latter elements that make things work, and they’re invisible, as they should be. In the end elegant software keeps consumer tech simple and approachable, which enhances everyone’s lives, even if they don’t realize it.