HOW Sweet It Was! Thoughts from a design conference — part 2

As I mentioned a few days ago, I’m just back from the HOW Design Conference in Austin, Texas, where I presented a three-hour session on “QuarkXPress Integration with Adobe’s Creative Suite.” And I’m really mad at Quark’s marketing department. Not necessarily Quark’s CURRENT marketing department, but whoever limited their budget over the past seven years.

I understand that people often learn a program to do a particular project, and then don’t expand their knowledge beyond the needs of the stream of projects they’re called upon to produce. I get that. But I don’t think Quark’s previous upper management understood that — or maybe they just didn’t care.

From my experience with actual users, I would venture to say that new abilities added to QuarkXPress since version 4 are mostly unknown to the majority of QuarkXPress users. Imagine that! No wonder InDesign has been so successful — all they had to do was provide a better feature set than QuarkXPress 4.

And it’s tragic. The deeply powerful workflow-changing features added in the past seven years are brilliant. One person in my session exclaimed: “that would have saved me SO much time on my last project!” And he was reacting to a feature that was introduced in QuarkXPress 5, back in 2002.

Of course, this problem is not exclusive to Quark — it’s endemic to the software industry. If you learned InDesign CS to do your work, then upgraded to CS2, CS3 and CS4, it’s likely you’re not using many of the features added after you first learned the program. However, Adobe has been much better than Quark at trumpeting their new features to their existing users. And they also did something jaw-droppingly obvious: they flooded the education market with InDesign when Quark abandoned it. I’ll discuss that topic in my next post.

Meanwhile, I applaud Quark for their strong current support for education, which they massively improved a year or two ago. And I encourage Quark’s management to continue to invest in their marketing efforts, which are ten times better than in previous years. But Quark still faces the vital challenge of educating their existing users about new features.

Hey Quark! If your existing users don’t know what the program is capable of, how do you expect them to defend it against an onslaught of InDesign supporters? And if Quark users don’t know what the features are, then how do you expect InDesign users — who don’t even use QuarkXPress — to respect the program? Give your fans some ammunition against the entire generation of designers who were never exposed to QuarkXPress in school. The design community — and your legacy — deserves it.

Next time: Quark vs. the Department of Education.