Hostile or charming: Which kind of software company are you?
Do you remember reading Highlights for Children as a kid—or having it read to you? Your mom would recite the magazine’s preschooler-friendly lumps of moral and intellectual fiber, which were all done up in simple line drawings and noun-verb sentences.
I was deeply affected by one Highlights feature in particular: “Goofus and Gallant.” In successive panels, you’d see how two young boys—a surly punk named Goofus and an angelic tot named Gallant—reacted to the same social situation. You know: “Goofus spends his after-school hours smoking and throwing rocks at puppies. Gallant brings adult-literacy programs to underprivileged communities.”
We won’t dwell on the fact that any kid with a name like Goofus is obviously the offspring of psychotic parents and can be forgiven for having antisocial tendencies. Instead, let’s all agree that the world has too few Gallants and too many Goofuses.
I was installing some crummy software the other day, wishing there were a similar primer forsoftware companies. There isn’t, to my knowledge, a magazine for parents of aspiring programmers to read to their offspring. Who’s the role model for these kids—Bill Gates? Oh, great. How will they learn how software should behave in public?
Allow me to offer a tale of two companies: Goofus International and Gallant Microsystems. Ready, junior engineers? Brush your teeth, get under the covers, and have Mommy read this to you:
Goofus International ships its software on a CD—but prints the 56-digit serial number on the disc. Gallant Microsystems’ programs don’t require a serial number at all.
The Goofus installer requires you to restart the Mac after installation. Gallant’s installer lets you know that the software was successfully installed but won’t be available until you choose to restart.
GoofusWriter Pro won’t launch without a bunch of extensions. GallantWrite runs—in 900K of RAM—even if the shift key was down at start-up.
Goofus saves $4.25 per copy by eliminating a printed manual. Every Gallant program, on the other hand, comes with a proofread, well-indexed, Mac-specific manual—and online help.
The designers at Goofus have been brainwashed by Microsoft. Their programs eat up screen space with rows and rows of microscopic, unlabeled tool-bar icons. Software from Gallant includes menu-command equivalents for every tool-bar icon—and the icons are labeled.
Goofus lavishly updates version numbers when only minor changes have been made. Gallant follows correct version-numbering etiquette, revising the first digit of a program’s version number only when the file format changes, bumping up the first decimal place when new features are added, and adding a second decimal point for free updates.
Goofus charges $35 per tech-support call. You have to provide your credit-card number beforespeaking to a technician—even if you’re calling to report a bug. Gallant Microsystems recognizes that professional, free phone help is one of the few remaining distinctions between commercial software and shareware.
At www.goofus.com, huge graphics, worthless Java applets, and things that blink make the site about as much fun to visit as a meat locker. At www.gallant.com, on the other hand, you’ll find an attractive, clean, quickly downloaded design—no Java, no frames, no graphics the size of Tulsa—that includes a tech-support message board monitored by Gallant’s staff.
Goofusware does the bare minimum. Gallant applications go the extra mile: drag-and-drop editing, contextual menus, and a Print One Copy command. And in dialog boxes, you can tab to jump forward, shift-tab to jump backward, hold down the command key to see keyboard shortcuts, and press command-period to dismiss the box.
The Mac versions of Goofus products come out months after their Windows counterparts. At Gallant, the versions debut simultaneously. (Gallant’s accountants have done the math, too: Mac fans buy proportionally more software than Windows users, and Gallantware is much more likely to be a major player in the less crowded Mac market.)
Goofus doesn’t attend Macworld Expo. (And when it does go to trade shows, it makes its customers perform like chimps to qualify for free T-shirts.) Gallant makes a point of presenting a friendly face to its customers at trade shows and gives away cool freebies to all.via Macworld by David Pogue, July 17, 1998
Now nearly ten years on, Gallant has decided to drop out of Macworld, so what makes them different? They still don’t do most of the evil things denoted in this article, but the times they are a changing…