As a trained therapist and founder of SimplePractice, I spend a lot of time thinking about the people who use our software.
At its core, good software shouldn’t get in your way. It should be easy to use, intuitive, and you shouldn’t have to think too much about it. You also don’t need to spend a lot of time doing unnecessary things. Everyone who uses software should know how to find the right software for what they really need and how they work.
As professionals who work in the field of human behavior, I am sure you are aware of the term, “the paradox of choice”. While initially one may think that having many choices is a type of freedom, too many choices in fact can be quite debilitating and lead to anxiety, depression and decreased productivity.
So how does this factor into software? Well, in the world of software there are usually many choices when it comes to finding a product to meet a particular need. This can create a lot of confusion for many and it’s easy to initially believe that you need one product, when in fact, you may need something entirely different. So here are some things to consider when choosing the right software for you.
What problem are you trying to solve?
You should have clarity about what specifically you want to achieve. For example, are you trying to:
- Save time
- Save money
- Get more organized and efficient
- Comply with laws and regulations
- All of the above
You must take an honest look at who you are and how you do things. You shouldn’t have to wrestle with a product, it should be an extension of how you work. So that means finding what works best with you. To better understand how your unique character may inform the best product choice, you may want to ponder the following questions:
- What is my comfort level with technology?
- Do I like complex or simple things?
- Do I like to read instructions or figure things out by exploring?
- Do I want to spend a lot of time with technology, or do I want to get in and get out?
- Do I feel like what I am doing is never enough?
- Do I worry about making mistakes and end up over-documenting or creating extra work that I may not need to do?
- Do I bite off more than I can chew?
- Do I eagerly start something new and end up quitting because it becomes a hassle?
- Do I like to have a lot of choices or is it easier to make decisions with fewer options?
- Am I OK with doing something as opposed to doing nothing?
Once you reflect on these questions and are more mindful of how you work, you can then begin to look at what is it you really need the software to do to help with what you are trying to accomplish.
Wants and Needs
I am sure you are all familiar with wants versus needs. I want that expensive luxury suv, but do I need it? I know it can cross a swollen river five feet deep, but realistically how often will I need to do that. And so it is with software. You may find that what you want, is not really what you need.
It is important to be very honest with yourself here. It’s good to start out with a list of things you need the software to allow you to do. But remember, it’s easy to say, I need this, and this and this, and this. And you may truly need all those things, but sometimes when you step back and really examine what you say you need, many times you come to realize that what you thought you need, you really just want, and if you look even further, you realize the likelihood of using this over the long term is not very likely so you can move what you thought you needed off the list. After you have a list of things that you need and I mean really must-have needs, then here comes the next important question –
What are you actually going to use?
Everyone starts out with the best intentions. Of course I will use all these great little features. I need them and I cannot run my business without them. I can’t tell you how many times I set out with a new piece of productivity software with the best intentions to really use it, only to find that after a week, I couldn’t do it. I was overwhelmed and ended up feeling bad and then it just became easier to not use it.
Companies pitching their products can make long feature lists look very seductive and it is easy to believe you need something only because it is in a list of features. For software development companies, it is very tempting to keep adding little bells and whistles because people ask for things all the time and companies don’t want to disappoint, or lose, a customer. Saying ‘yes’ to every request can quickly turn a simple product into a confusing mess.
The challenge really comes down to how features are implemented and how this affects the overall workflow and usability of a product. Many would be surprised at how much you can get done with less.
It really comes back to how you responded to the questions we posed above:
- What do I need to achieve?
- What is my style of working?
- What are the features I really need?
Because we are all different and have our own unique ways of processing information and working with systems, it’s great to be able to look at your options and make an informed choice and find the product that fits you best.
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