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Pluginisation of Modern Software

Keep the software simple, silly.

Transitioning from Adobe to Figma was a big change for me in my design journey.

At that time, the whole design ecosystem was revolving around Adobe. For image manipulation, you had Photoshop, Illustrator for vector graphics, Indesign for reports, XD for website/app prototypes and so on.

When Figma first started it was competing to disrupt this ecosystem for UI/UX Design. As the adobe ecosystem was offline-first, it turned out to be an expensive design choice. The USP of Figma was centeted around how everyone everywhere could design all at the same time without any latency.

This disruption is widely understood how Figma capitalised on this undue advantage. But one another aspect which gets missed in this whole David versus Goliath battle is ‘pluginisation’.

Opening Photoshop was like being given keys to a space shuttle control panel. You had all the buttons , functions and affordances at your door step. Imagine wanting to ride a cycle and being handed over a Lamborghini. The experience was heavily over engineered for first time users. It violated the (KISS — Keep it Simple Silly) Principle for them.

Compared to the space shuttle, Figma is a bicycle intended for people who wanted to ride a bicycle. However, if the cyclist wanted to upgrade the bicycle, let’s say add extra gears, slope assist, or even a nitro boost, that was possible. It’s a typical textbook case of what we can call as “IKEA effect”

The IKEA effect, named after everyone’s favorite Swedish furniture giant, describes how people tend to value an object more if they make (or assemble) it themselves. More broadly, the IKEA effect speaks to how we tend to like things more if we’ve expended effort to create them.

Everything can be modified and tinkered with. Making users feel more endowed with the software they interact with.

We’re already seeing this in action —- Pluginisation of Modern Software.

Obsidian is already in hot pursuit of this idea. They are encouraging a developer friendly ecosystem of plugins by extending support. Not everyone would be okay with the design choices exercised in a software. The best bet would then be to provide enough resources to the user so that they could customise it on their own.

You have software that can be configured as how ever you want.