The two companies named in my heading, iCONECT and Equivio, are in fact related in that there is a partnership between them which appears from both their web sites. That is a coincidence so far as this article is concerned. They are grouped together because both have recently launched visual enhancements to their applications and their web sites which are worthy of note. They have both made enhancements, also, to the technology in their applications, but I am here concerned only with what they look like and how they work from the point of view of a potential customer who wants to know about the products.
If you think that this is a superficial approach to marketing business tools then think again. I do not suggest that law firms and corporations make purchasing decisions on the strength of web site artistry, because any serious player (and these companies are interested only in serious players) will delve well below the surface before buying anything. I am not, either, suggesting that their rivals in the same space are backward or deficient. Marketing, however, consists in part of catching the eye, and both these companies have certainly achieved that.
Let’s start with Equivio, who have simultaneously released a user application, Zoom, and a web site which have torn up the standard spec for both. Zoom, which combines Equivio’s near-duplicates, email threads and Relevance applications, is crisp and white. It has as little as possible on the screen at any one time, and “intuitive flow” (their choice of words, but I’m happy to endorse it) from one stage of the process to another, and the use of graphics wherever possible to give clear guidance as to the present status of the processes.
The goldfish, for so long Equivio’s mascot, has gone from the web site to be replaced by colourful paper darts with smiley faces, and by a recurring but varying image of a simple but expressive face on a piece of paper. The individual pages are not afraid to use the space afforded by the screen where others (me for example) tend to cram as much into the top as possible. The Resources page combines these elements and, like Zoom itself, makes it easy to see everything and to move from one place to another. Warwick Sharp, Vice President, Marketing and Business Development, says that the designer was told to ignore his idea of what businesses expected and to follow his own ideas. It works.
I wrote about iCONECT’s new Xera application here, with the title iCONECT Xera is much more than just a pretty face – but it is very pretty. I do not need to say more about Xera itself for the moment, but it has now been given a website to match right down to the sliding frames, one of which includes my quotation about Xera raising the bar for interface design. I am interested, incidentally, to see that many of the quotations which appear alongside mine focus on the quality of the training and support received by users. Trainers tend to be hypercritical by nature – it seems to be part of the qualification for the job – and their endorsements are worth having.
I read the other day, and my own observation bears this out, that white cars are becoming fashionable again – in the UK, at least, a white car signified until recently either a rental car or a driver from a culture whose taste is, er, different from ours. They were hard to sell second-hand, and it was rumoured that at least one police force had opted for coloured cars to reduce their losses on resale. That seems to have changed, and it is Apple whom we have to thank for making white the fashionable colour.
I do not know whether either Equivio or iCONECT were driven by fashion – there is clearly no harm in adopting a style which fits with what users are buying for their personal lives. I suspect, however, that the fashion consideration was secondary to the clarity and efficiency which are required in modern life and which are evident in both their applications and their web sites.