In an amazing post on Daring Fireball John Gruber quotes the technology directory for a public school in Massachusetts:
However, even iLife has its drawbacks in an educational setting. It simply hands so much to the students that they struggle with software (whether Windows, Linux, or even pro-level software on the Mac) that isn’t so brilliantly plug and play. Yes, iLife rocks in many ways, but the level of spoonfeeding it encourages actually makes me think twice about using it widely, especially at the high school level.
To which Gruber responds
So the problem with Apple’s iLife apps is that they’re too good, and kids never learn that they need to struggle with technical issues before using software to express themselves creatively.
I agree with Gruber. However, I don’t think we should limit the discussion to just creative Apps. Modern day software is built on complexity. A consultant at my company once said that if we made the software too easy to use, then the consultants would be out of work; our product wouldn’t sell because it would to be too easy to use. I don’t necessarily agree with the argument, but the fear is common, and not unique to my current company.
Would easier software put people out of work?
I don’t think so. I think it would change the focus. If we started designing our software with a greater attention to user experience, the access time could be spent on further improving that experience, instead of support calls. Apple’s iLife wasn’t easy to create. Each of the apps has had millions of reviews, UI meetings, discussions, arguments and refinements. This wondrous amount of work has lead to an incredibly intuitive suite of tools. It would be fantastic if we could switch our focus (as an industry), from simply providing more tools, to providing better tools. Perhaps than our software will “too easy” for them to teach in school.