When I left Apple in 1992 for Microsoft I was one of the few Apple employees to move to Microsoft. Over the years many more Apple employees joined Microsoft, and now many more Microsoft employees have gone to Apple.
One of the questions many asked when I first joined Microsoft was what is the difference between Apple and Microsoft. After months of explaining I finally hit upon the following.
Microsoft is an analytical company, doing things that there is data to support the decisions. What makes people feel good inside the company is having data to support a decision. Apple is an emotional company where you do things that feel good for the customers. Usability testing rarely taps into the emotional element of do people like the new service.
This split is a religious one. Designers on one side. Developers on the other. Until April 4, 2011 Google had a shift in the balance and afterwards designers got more votes on what Google shipped.
Here is a post on Fast Company.
If you ask a Google designer to mark the shift between Google's old approach to design and its new one, you're likely to get a precise date: April 4, 2011. That's the day Page became CEO. It's also the day Google designers were set free. Within a week of taking over, Page called together the company's top designers, product chiefs, and executives to outline his vision for Google's aesthetic future. Page's ideas meshed with a plan that designers had long thought Google should embrace.
Leading up to 2011 was the reality of 2010 user feedback.
In 2010, Google conducted a series of user tests to find out how people felt about Android. The results were stark: "A lot of people felt that Android was essential to their lives, but they didn't like Android," Duarte says. The robust abilities of the OS "made them feel small. It wasn't empowering, but daunting." The same could be said for other Google products. When you loaded up something made by Google, you were more likely to feel overwhelmed than welcomed.
How much voice do you give your users?
Do you design for your users or your developers and internal views?