Why Our Software Isn’t Prettier

Because I’m so proud of our software, I’m definitely too sensitive to criticism about it. Recently, during our first session to train her, a new user had the nerve to say the software looked dated. She – a very young person – said it didn’t have the cool graphics, mouseovers, and ample white space that “modern” software has.

While we are 100% confident that she WILL see the utility and, ultimately, the elegance of our software after using it for awhile, her comments did get me thinking (once I got past denial). Could our software be prettier? Could its design be updated to look more stylish? To look more like the online software tools, sites and suites developed in the last year or two?

The answer, of course, is yes.

Our focus has always been on functionality—probably to a fault. Does the software work, and work well? Can we add elements, pointers, popups, etc to keep our users on the straight and narrow—to help them avoid mistakes, to guide them as they do their daily work? We believe that dashboards are a GOOD, that seeing available filters and list options at a glance is GOOD—people can then quickly make choices to get what they need.

Recurring charges iconThe tradeoff is that some screens can seem busy, especially to new users. We also readily admit that we don’t invest much energy in making things pretty. Some of our icons and graphics elements do, indeed, date back to the 1990s. We always go for a clean look, but we consider many of the graphics to be classic in the sense that they convey a function, e.g. this icon works well to designate recurring.

We like a visual layout that lets our users quickly decide – click here to go post a payment, click here to generate a quote, click here to open a service ticket. THUS, we present this menu:


We could probably hide some of these, or set up floating buttons or folder tabs, which might enable us to add more white space and maybe drop in some smiling faces or ultra cool graphics that really POP (as they say).

I could also take our kitchen’s beautiful granite countertops, rip them out, and install quartz, along with glass subway tile backsplash. I could sell our Toyota Avalon, and buy a Tesla. That would make us much more trendy. But, believe it or not, our ‘old’ granite countertops still work extremely well. Our ceramic tile backsplash looks fine, and wipes down well. Our Avalon rides like a dream – and I know where the dipstick is.

I’ll admit I’m a bit old fashioned, in the sense that I like things that work well, and things that are familiar. If something is familiar but no longer works well, it’s history. As for our software, and the services we tie into it, working well is at the heart of our decisions as we continuously improve and enhance things. Maybe we should hire a VP for Aesthetics….but then we’d need to raise our prices. Lots of software out there LOOKS really good, really cool, really simple. But looks are often deceiving.

The reason Cornerstone has endured for 17 years now, and has built such a loyal customer base, is our insistence that our system and software just WORKS. We’ll do our best on style points…but no guarantees.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhoto.net | fantasista

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