Design Element
Comment on "Deciding What Kind of App to Write"
by Jacob Rus — Dec 14
This response is a bit late, so people (other than scott) probably won't see it, butů

Corey: I think that's a really insightful take on the best-of-class apps, and it clarifies my thinking on the subject.

PGM: No, Corey is exactly right, and this applies to Apple's apps as well. In fact, I think your 80% rule and Corey's 20% are completely consistent with each-other. The idea isn't to pile on features that 1% will use, but to find those features that everyone needs, but no app is currently providing. 2 examples:

1. Aperture: Apple looked around at the digital photo manager/editor market, and noticed a gaping hole. While Photoshop had, and has, the market for retouching, special effects, etc. all tied up, no shipping application had seriously looked at the workflows of digital photographers. Applications like iView, Cumulus, and Adobe Bridge are basically glorified file managers, and they approach the problem as one of files with thumbnails and folders. The Aperture team looked around at the newly available fast hardware, and at the RAW images coming out of modern digital cameras, and then sat down with the disgruntled photographers forced to use these other apps, and together mapped out a new product that would be based around images, using physical metaphors like light tables, but extending their power with computers. This is a feature set and indeed, a whole outlook that other developers had completely missed, and the result is a true delight.

2. Textmate: Allan Odgaard looked around 2 years ago, and was unhappy with Xcode's pretty basic text editor (basically halfway between TextEdit and Mike Ferris's TextExtras input manager. He also didn't like the command-line unix editors (vim, emacs, etc.), wanting to keep to the GUI and the Mac philosophy on his shiny G4, and felt constricted by the philosophy of BBEdit. So he went out, looked around, and found text editing patterns which he felt should be automated by the computer, but weren't by any existing app, and set out to fix that. The result, TextMate, has the most easy-to-understand yet powerful, orthogonal, abstractions of any editor I've ever used.

When it comes to pure feature checklists, there is no way for a new product to ever line up as many boxes as existing dominant applications. Also, they wouldn't want to, because in general, lots of those features are crufty and obscure. Instead, the goal should be to provide powerful new abstractions that every target user needs, without even knowing it.
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