Hillel Cooperman quit Microsoft about five years ago to found his own software design company, Jackson Fish Market.
Today, Cooperman described a meeting in 2003, when he tried to convince Bill Gates that different software features could have different types of designs.
As an engineer, Gates had a firm belief that interface design should be as consistent as possible — why rewrite menus in a bunch of different ways? It was a waste of time and code.
Cooperman believed that people aren’t that robotic and can handle variations. It’s more important to make sure the overall user experience feels good.
So he told Gates, “A shower, a toilet, and a water fountain all have mechanisms to control water flow, places where the water comes out, some sort of porcelain basin to hold the water, and a drain, but we don’t combine them into one thing to reduce their learning curve.”
Gates paused for what seemed like forever.
Then he finally came out with, “That’s just rude.”
Cooperman lost the battle, but Microsoft has since come around to the idea that user experience can be tailored for different functions — just look at the way Windows 8 combines two totally different interfaces in the same product.
Full credit to Cooperman for bringing Bill Gates to a near speechless state. In his earlier days, Gates was known for his blunt opinions, including favorites like “that’s the stupidest f-ing idea I’ve ever heard.”