The Redesign Conundrum

Microsoft is launching a new product called Web Office. It liberates the user from being slaved to his desktop for using MS’ blockbuster productivity suite – the one and only MS Office. Microsoft hasn’t yet designed the user interface for the web version and is inviting suggestions for it. How wouold you go about designing for this challenge (you perhaps know that MS is not planning any such thing, but just stay with me on this hypothesis for a while)?

Option A

Design the interface exactly replicating the rich client (the one you install in your PC/Mac and fire up whenever you need to use). Look, the dude using the web version of Excel will be really pissed off if it required him to learn new tricks to do the same stuff that he does in the desktop version, right? Right. So if you are looking to extend the accessibility of a rich client product by developing a web equivalent, stick with the same design. Phew, that was easy.

Option B

Take the opportunity and create a different interface. Does this option even hold water after everyone voted aye for Option A? It actually does, but perhaps not in the example I thought up. The opportunity to redesign an existing application for its web existence may be taken when the customer segments for the web and rich client application are different. Take for example an accounting software that caters to large enterprises (very close to being an ERP system). Its complexity, need for scale, security et al precludes the possibility of putting it up on the web. However, the same vendor may choose to offer a scaled down version of the product for the small-and-medium-enterprise sub-segment (perhaps on a SaaS model) and hence develop a thin equivalent. Non overlapping segments – freedom to redesign.

What do you think?

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