Nov 30 2023

Why we use inferior software products

We all interact with dozens of software products every day. Even people who aren’t in tech or don’t have a job that has them staring at a screen all day are constantly using software. I’ve noticed over time that people, myself included, end up using some god-awful pieces of software with terrible design and user experiences and in many cases lesser functionality than competitors.

How can this be?  Isn’t software cheap and ubiquitous at this point?  What’s the excuse for poor UX? Here are four themes I’ve noticed that cause people to use inferior software products.  I am sure there are more.

  • Habit. Some pieces of software start out good or best of breed and get worse over time, either because they don’t incorporate new functionality when competing products do, because competing products have better design or some kind of network effect, or because the product actually has a bad UX team that makes it worse. It’s why I’m still using Apple Music when I should probably be using Spotify
  • Customer lock-in. Some companies make it difficult or undesirable for their customers to switch to a competing piece of software with specific features, housing data, or integrations. Hubspot has done a nice job of gaining share in the CRM space by focusing on companies just starting out. But have they really taken existing installations from Salesforce?
  • Contract terms. Whether price, a long term contract, or that pesky forgotten autorenew clause, frequently you just keep using a piece of inferior software because you’ve already paid for it, or because “that’s what our company standardized on.” Sheets isn’t as powerful as Excel, but it’s free and “good enough”
  • Bundles. It “comes with” is a powerful incentive to use an inferior software product. Broader platforms have an inch-deep but mile-wide approach that captures share from point solutions. Expensify is a much better expense management platform than Ramp, but Ramp does other, more important things (to the buyer in Accounting) well, and they throw in expense management for free

The moral of the story isn’t to use inferior software products. And it’s not to build inferior software products.

It’s that it takes more than a superior product to win over customers. You have a lot more to overcome than just a better feature set or UX.

It’s that your competition could turn out to be someone you didn’t think about who decided to add your whole company as a tab or feature. Keep a much longer list of “maybe, someday” competitors right next to your list of today’s competitors and watch them just as closely.

And it’s that as a disruptive competitor, you need to make it easy for future customers to switch to your platform and migrate their existing data or integrations over. LastPass and 1Password making it so easy to move my data AND even “bought out” my existing subscription.