In the age of mass production, craftsmanship is a rarity. Why? Because craftsmanship takes time. It takes patience. It takes a deep, personal connection to the product, and an understanding of the needs it fulfills.
And while, at first glance, it might seem odd to talk about software as a craft, that’s exactly the way we think about it at Zoho. In fact, we see software as the ultimate in craftsmanship, a place where the work of the mind meets the work of the hands to create something amazing.
This belief informs everything we do.
The science of craft
Craftspeople don’t pick up their skills overnight. It isn’t learned from just hitting the books and cramming for an exam. It takes real-world practice that puts those skills to the test. It takes years of training with masters, working until the apprentice can forge their own path. We don’t think software is any different.
It’s why we’ve built our apprentice-style system in Zoho Schools of Learning, an in-house program that sources and trains high school students in fundamental software engineering, design, and marketing principles. Participants spend nearly a year learning the ropes and then are placed in teams where they serve as trainees until they’ve achieved mastery of the skill. This apprenticeship model creates consistency and deep knowledge; information is transmitted over months and years, not hours and days.
Because we’re private (with no plans to ever go public) we aren’t forced to optimize production for next quarter’s profits. Delivering a great product takes time. It takes perseverance. It takes patience, something out of fashion in today’s venture-capital backed technology space.
Designed to delight
Good design evolves to meet the user where they are, rather than jumping them out of their routine and making them scramble for the back button. It innovates the user’s experience rather than upending it.
Good design doesn’t exist for the sake of being good design. It emerges out of deep empathy for the user and their needs. It takes aesthetics into account while putting usability at the forefront.
Designing products that fulfill genuine needs doesn’t happen on a whim. They’re born from a process of careful planning and design. They come from years of practice and refinement. Most companies don’t have the patience to do that with one product, let alone 55+. But Zoho is different.
Zoho Creator, our custom app builder, is one such example of our values craftsmanship and empathy for the user in action. Through years of observation, we figured out where customers succeeded, where they needed help, and where they failed in app building, and designed a drag-and-drop interface simple enough for a non-engineer to use. Alongside that, we built a coding language (Deluge) underlying the product that is sophisticated enough to create even the most complicated of apps. With some time, some attention to detail, and some commitment, we managed to design a product that pleases novice and expert users alike.
That doesn’t happen by chance.
Doing it right
There are no shortcuts to quality. Good enough is never good enough, at least not when you’re passionate about your work and the products you build.
Great software is more than a feat of engineering; it’s a work of art. Great software requires the visionary eye of an artist melded with the skilled hands of a craftsperson. They combine to produce something that is not only beautiful, but that enhances the lives of those who come into contact with it.
Rome wasn’t built in a day; neither was Zoho. It’s taken more than a decade to perfect our comprehensive suite. We’re willing to give things the time they need to take. If it’s not done right, it probably isn’t worth doing.