Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Stagnation or Stability?

Michael Lopp has held onto using Cultured Code’s Things for a long time, but he’s saying goodbye:

How can I trust that I’m using the state of the art in productivity systems when I’m using an application that took over two years to land sync I could easily use? What other innovations are they struggling to land in the application? Why hasn’t the artwork changed in forever? What is that smell? That smell is stagnation.

But Daniel Jalkut sees more careful change as evidence of method, not madness:

This line of reasoning gets my hackles up in part because I’m a cautious, deliberate developer. I tend to add features, rework user interfaces, and adopt new platforms at a pace that frustrates even my most loyal customers. I’m slow, but I’m good! When Lopp attacks Cultured Code, the makers of Things, and questions their core competence, I feel that I am being attacked as well.

Trying to find a position on this issue is something I’m struggling with. I see Jalkut’s point — it cannot be overstated that developing great software is hard work. When you move too fast and change too many things, you risk alienating users and completely messing up their workflow. Look no further than the backlash over the recent iWork updates, or iOS 7, or any minor Facebook update.

But, while I was an early adopter of Things and beta tested their cloud syncing service, it’s a suite of software that hasn’t visibly changed much since it launched in January of 2009. The suite remains a preeminent example of user interface quality and syncing reliability, but iOS 7 changed so much that it looks completely out of place in 2013, much like any app which has used close-to-default iOS 6 UIKit components.

iOS 7 has only been public for about two months, but designers and developers have been aware of it for five. And — much as I am a proponent of the app being released right instead of soon — I’m not surprised at Lopp’s position. While Cultured Code is working on an iOS 7 overhaul, other apps are already there, and doing so very well.

I’m optimistic, though. Things is such a great suite, and the attention to detail from the designers and developers is rivalled by very few apps. I’m hoping to see the same when an update is released, and I don’t think I’m going to be disappointed when it arrives.