At every conference I go to I try to identify one thing we could do that could really make a difference. While this may seem easy, it is difficult to walk away with one thing that really stands out. At the Esri conference the observation hit me square in the face – the importance of making things easy! (not hard)
A common mistake many software companies make is focusing on increasing complex tasks at the expense of focusing on making common tasks easier. For example, Jack Dangermond talked about ArcGIS 10.0 and “getting back to the map” – putting the map at the center of the user experience. The point here is to make it easier for users to do the most common tasks.
Easy vs Hard
When it comes to moving data there are many hard problems to focus on. The hard problem is seductive. It is after all interesting, challenging and mentally stimulating making it easy for smart people at technology companies to focus on these tasks and ignore the easy ones.
Reflecting on what we have done, our users most appreciated the small things that made ordinary tasks easier (the quick add feature and pink dot connector come to mind when thinking about our software).
I am not suggesting organizations start ignoring hard problems, but rather work to find the balance. When they do work on hard problems they will often find that the road to solving hard problems is paved with solutions for many smaller and easier problems. They should not ignore these small successes as it could be that some small easier problem you solve may have a much wider appeal than the hard problem!
To demonstrate how something easy can be useful, we have written an fmepedia article that highlights a very simple and easy solution that is the by-product of us solving hard problems.
This service relies on a trivial workspace to convert data from any format to any other format that FME supports (hundreds of output formats are possible, but to make this service easy to use, we’ve selected an initial set of 12 of the most popular output formats). Of course to do this a lot of hard stuff is being automatically leveraged, as the EasyTranslator workspace exploits Generic, Dynamic, and Merge Feature Types technologies.
This might seem like déjà vu to some of you. If you take the WayBackMachine back to 1996, you will find that we had another simple sample web service on our website. This “Live Demo” or web service ran for many years on our website. Of course back then it was restricted to 1 input format and 4 output formats. Technology has indeed changed a lot in the last 14 years.
And if you do try it out, please comment back and let me know about your experiences and what you would like to see from the EasyTranslator!