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Design-Centric Software and our Anniversary Release

Posted by Colin Kingsbury

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Jan 12, 2007 9:22:00 AM

Over the weekend we released Resume Direct 2.1 as a way of celebrating two years (to the day) since launching the beta. We've added over 70 clients since then (60 of them in 2006 alone) and the functionality we offer has grown far and wide with them.

Aside from some great new features like custom fields, the largest part of this release was dedicated to an "Extreme Makeover" of the requisition UI screens. The requisition pages have probably undergone more changes in the past two years than any other single part of the system. In 2005 it was little more than title, department, and location. Now there are roughly two dozen standard options, and with custom fields, clients can take that number as high as they want it.

Starting around six months ago we began noticing that in both demos and new client training sessions, an inordinate amount of time was being spent on screens that represented less than a quarter of the overall functionality we offered. No one (either prospects or clients) was complaining that it was too complicated, but the internal feedback loop between our support and training staff and the product development team kept coming back and saying "we need to do better."

Design-centric thinking may be newly in vogue in the software industry but for me personally it is old hat. Both of my parents were working artists, my father the head of creative services for nearly thirty years at the fragrance company Coty. Along the way he got to work with Sophia Lauren (who once baked him banana bread in her hotel suite) and threw away a bunch of original sketches by Andy Warhol, then just another mediocre freelancer looking to make a few extra bucks. 

One of his greatest successes was the launch of Exclamation! in the late 80s. Perhaps his proudest achievement was to see the bottle exhibited at the MoMA, which had been his favorite museum since he was in art school. It's not an exaggeration to say that bottle helped put me through college. What is perhaps the most fascinating thing is that when I mention it to people, the first thing they remember isn't what the fragrance smelled like, but what it looked like.

For HRMDirect, the benefits of good design are no less acute:

- Reduced training cost
- Reduced support cost
- Increased adoption by end-users (especially hiring managers)

Most software vendors only care peripherally about these issues because:

a) they make money charging extra for training
b) they make money charging extra for enhanced support 
c) the licenses were sold up front, so it's out of their hands

Why does HRMDirect care? As a software-as-a-service provider we are set up entirely differently.

1. We include training in our base prices, so the less training clients require to become effective, the better we do

2. We include full support in our base prices, so the more support clients require, the less money we make

3. Our licenses are sold annually, so we need clients to renew and hopefully increase the number of licenses each year to succeed.

In a SaaS world, we succeed the more closely we align with client needs, and good design, an afterthought in virtually every system out there, takes pride of place for us. While I don't know that I'll ever see screenshots of our new requisition UIs in a museum, and I'm quite sure that Scarlett Johanssen will never bake me banana bread, good design sensibility is in my genes and permeates everything we do here at HRM.