It is usually difficult to really "wow" a BostonCHI type of audience. Not impossible, but difficult. But with YAWP (Yet Another Word Processor)? I mean come on, a word processor? We are supposed to get excited over a word processor? Are you serious?
Yes. Serious. These guys did it. Frankly, Rick had me sold very early in his part of the talk, when he said:
"If you are going to build something new, build it beautiful."
(Yay, a new quote to add to my list of favorite design quotes!)
And that very much was the theme of everything they talked about and showed us all night long. Beauty and elegance. Design that resonates. (Note to self: go re-read Gelernter's Machine Beauty.)
Buzzword is a Flash-based word processor that works inside a browser. It has some collaboration features built in, but I think what resonated more with many of us in the audience is that it was designed with a fresh look at the solution space, and with an elegance that isn't often seen today. An Apple-like elegance, you might say.
I was quite interested in what I could glean about Robby's design process, as his role was (is) that of the design lead. No surprise to me, his is a design process rooted in creating interactive artifacts (wanna call them prototypes?). He made an interesting comment about steering away from wire frames, and instead creating pixel-fidelity interactions. Hmmmm, pair that up with the Business Week Tech Beat post last week about Apple's design process and "pixel perfect mockups." I see a design tension here between fast (sketching) and fidelity that I find myself mulling over and over. Can it be that Robby just glossed over the phase where he considers ten ideas to concentrate finally on one or two?
They talked about creating an Adobe AIR version of Buzzword. That, I think, could be a killer app in the word processing space, and I'll be watching for it. In the meantime, check out Buzzword. And if you get a chance to see Rick or Robby talk, don't pass it up.