Splash Screen Psychology

We don’t generally design splash screens for Early Access Builds. But, with our Memory Profiler coming out as an Early Access Build, one of my developers unleashed his pent-up artistic energy on the ANTS Performance Profiler splash screen in order to create a temporary splash screen for the new Memory Profiler. After some desultory scribbling and sketching, the ANTS Memory Profiler splash screen was born.


The team loved the quirky design, decided to keep it, and our Usability Engineer started running testing sessions with potential users. We were slightly surprised to discover that the “impressionist” splash screen gave every single user the giggles (see the wmv videos here and here). Even our conservative Support Engineer exclaimed: “C’mon! We’ve gotta keep it! I just spoke to another guy who loved it!”

At Red Gate, we seem to have more than our share of people who dress up in Gorilla suits, throw custard pies, play the ukulele or suchlike, but we tend to shy away from humor in our software. Of course, things are different with an Early Access or Beta build; but nobody’s expecting those to be slick or finely tuned. Despite this, we like to release software that looks professional and credible. Whenever we are tempted to introduce something jokey or light-hearted, we remember with a shudder the awful cute dog in Microsoft Office, or the paperclip. The first time you saw it, you might have smiled, but it all goes quickly sour when you have to use something like this regularly. The line between “entertaining” and “tacky” is so very, very thin, and while artwork that looks like something my nephew scrawled is hilarious and all that, your final release needs to at least look like you put some effort into it.

On the other hand, we know from talking to our end-users that they appreciate humor as much as we do. Shouldn’t people enjoy using their tools? Maybe having something to smile about during your daily grind is priceless.

What do you think? Does humor belong in software? Should we keep the quirky design for the Beta Build, or bin it? We’d love to hear from you

 – posted by Laila