Since the business world largely relies on Microsoft Office products, and most documents are created in Microsoft Word, most people have no choice but to purchase, install and use this dreadful, malodorous piece of sh…software. While I wish Open Office, Google Docs, or ANY open source word processor would become more widely recognized, Office still reigns supreme, even as their company continues to stay out of touch and fail at providing good products. Here’s a few reasons why I loathe Office so very much, and, if I’m not foaming at the mouth by the end, a couple of things you can learn from Microsoft (the Company) about avoiding these pitfalls.
1) Resting on laurels: Large businesses/organizations buy licenses for this wretched product in bulk without checking for competition because they are familiar with the brand. Having established themselves as the “top brand” in this line, Microsoft Office doesn’t have to worry about pesky little details like providing a good product, or giving your clients what they need and want.
2) Terrible spelling and grammar functions: If you’re a good writer, these functions work reasonably well to keep you on track. If English isn’t your first language, or you don’t have a good grasp of advanced grammar, you are basically screwed in the Grammar Check. Someone smarter than I explored this topic in greater depth, here: “A Demonstration of the Futility of Using Microsoft Word’s Spelling and Grammar Check”
3) Slow and bloated: Like a French nobleman with gout and arthritis, Microsoft Office wants the peasants to eat cake while it pedantically forces them through update after update—in the most inconvenient fashion possible. After it shuts down everything on your computer, takes forever on one (probably useless) update, and then makes you restart your computer, it takes up way too much space on your computer’s disc drive, for no good reason. There is a definite sense of brand fatigue surrounding the Microsoft company because it is annoying to use.
Can I give you some completely useless tips? How about now? How about now? Are you mad at me? Why are you mad? Why won’t you look at me?
4) Not mobile (or anything) friendly: As a company, I get the feeling that Microsoft would prefer all of us kids get off its damn lawn, especially with Windows Vista, 8, and the accursed joke of the WWW, Internet Explorer. Its products are out of touch with user demand, and are not easy to use or accessible on all devices.
5) Speaking of Internet Explorer, this buggy, virus-laden, geriatric browser is part of the horrible Office parcel, and often made the default browser for company computers—despite being unable to render HTML or images properly, stay secure, or advance past its glory days in web 2.0. Considering its “security” updates require most companies to take down their firewalls, most people are forced to use out-of-date browsers. Web developers, keeping this in mind, have to spend extra time making sure their websites display somewhat decently on outdated browser. So much time and money being wasted by everyone.
6) Anti-web-publisher: The biggest shortcoming Microsoft Office—particularly Word—has, is its inability to work with desktop and web publishers. There is so much metadata, bad code, and bullshit involved in how Microsoft Office formats that it royally screws with the backend of ANY publisher, inserting funny fonts and hieroglyphics on a website? Chances are, someone forgot to put the content through a plain text editor to strip out all of the bloody useless junky code lurking behind the innocent words.
What can all of this teach us?
If you are focused on building your brand and maintaining its reputation you cannot, simply Can. Not. stop working for the people. You’re only as good as your last hit, and today’s consumer is absolutely ready to throw you overboard for something faster, better and cheaper. Even Apple is dealing with this issue, despite having a massive, cult-like following.
By resting on its laurels and not advancing its products, Microsoft opened the door to competition and criticism. The company also grew complacent with success, forgetting the “little people” who make up the workforce of industry, and the entirety of the consumer market. Usage of Open Office and Google docs is growing, because Office did not keep its edge after cornering the market. Those products are run by companies hungry for success, not sitting around like it overate at the Thanksgiving table.
While hindsight is 20-20, once your company is in the doghouse, it takes a significant amount of work to change that perception. Better products, significant changes to the outdated “olden ways” and making a sincere effort to connect with your target demographic online and in person are all good techniques, but your long-term strategy should include a couple of lines about how (once everything is all better) you will make sure this never happens again.