Ben Tsai

Reducing friction and Scriptogram's new text editor

I’m really loving how Scriptogram has been pumping out useful, high-quality features. I’m typing this post in the new text editor, which lets you compose a post directly from the browser. When I first saw that this was on the upcoming feature list, my impression was that this shouldn’t be a high priority. One major advantage of having posts be synced from Dropbox files is that you can use whatever text editor you want locally.

But what this feature does is reduce the friction of writing posts even more, and that is a powerful idea. Even though the text editor is fairly bare bones (no support for links, no HTML preview, no auto-save), it eliminates the overhead of navigating the file system, creating and naming a new text file, and typing in the proper header. John D. Cook wrote a post explaining this concept that a little simplicity goes a long way:

Sometimes making a task just a little simpler can make a huge difference. Making something 5% easier might make you 20% more productive. Or 100% more productive.

This is a huge reason why I’m so enamored by these blogging services that use Dropbox. There are plenty of blogging tools and services out there that make it easy to blog: Posterous, wordpress, tumblr, etc. Indeed, they’ve done a remarkable job of lowering the barrier of entry. But why do I like Scriptogram the most? It’s a little bit easier and simpler. There may actually be the same number of steps, but another component is the cognitive overload that it reduces. With Scriptogram, I’m simply editing a text file on my computer using Markdown. I’m limited by Markdown’s formatting abilities, which is a good thing. That little bit has been the deal-breaker and the reason for more posts as of late.

This also partly touches on why “simple” apps are all the rage and the notion that “less is more.” From 37 Signals’ Less Software chapter from Getting Real:

Software is incredibly complex. I want to have the minimum possible. It’s always a victory to me when I can get rid of code.

Monday, January 23, 2012