Installers are something that don’t get a lot of attention and that’s generally a good thing. No one ever talks about installers that “just work”. In this case, we have the Microsoft Zune software installation being reviewed by Engadget:
We hoped installing the Zune software and getting our player running would be as seamless and painless as getting iTunes and an iPod running on your machine, since that is, after all, what it’s up against. … Unfortunately, the reality of our experience with the first version of the Zune software this afternoon is much like that of many version 1 software experiences. It sucks.
The old saying for client installers is true: it may be the last thing you build, but it will be the first thing your customer runs. Now, the flip side is that ideally your installer will only be run once, so you don’t want to waste too much effort making it look fancy. (Better to spend those resources on the installed app itself.)
Installers need to be bullet-proof and able to deal with all sorts of “real world” computers out there. It’s difficult to catch all bugs before the software ships, but initial reports from the Zune installer are pretty discouraging. Did they have a public beta or preview? (I’m not sure.)
The Zune installer seems to have created yet another type of installer UI. I always try to push for installers to look as standard as possible. If an installer fits what users (for that platform) typically expect, the experience will be much smoother. Here the Zune developers (marketers?) have taken the billboard backgrounds to the extreme. You’ve got the catchy narratives like “Welcome to the social”, but there is painfully little space given for status updates or controlling the actual flow of the installer.