RE: Techies vs Usability

Subject: RE: Techies vs Usability
From: Chuck Martin <CMartin -at- serena -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 16 Feb 2000 10:17:49 -0800

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Anthony Markatos [mailto:tonymar -at- hotmail -dot- com]
> Sent: Tuesday, February 15, 2000 6:33 PM
> Subject: Techies vs Usability
<big snip>
> If effective user analysis is easy, why is software so widely
> recognized as
> being very hard to use? Companies put little emphasis on
> end-user analysis
> because they know that they can not do it effectively.
I would disagree with that last statement. Many companies have people on
their staff who can do (and do do) end-user analysis. Sometimes it's even
looked at. Other companies hire outside consultants who are experts in
interaction design.

Yet we see, over and over, companies routinely ignoring this information.
They *know* how to design better software because the better design has been
laid out in front of them.

No, software is so universally bad because the development teams are
regularly driven my marketing, management, and key techno-geek programmers
who think that the only important thing is to pack one more feature into the
software, usually because some customer asked for it or because it's another
check-mark on a marketing data sheet that will put them on-par or one leg up
on the competition. Sure, they'll pay lip service to creating better design,
just like they'll say that QA and doc teams are important and an integral
part of the development team. But if it will take another week, or another
month, or another 3 months to re-architect and re-engineer to provide a
better user experience, well, that's another week or another month or
another 3 months that no new software is being sold, and if profit
expectations aren't met, there goes the stock price. Not to mention, for
companies with sales forces, commissions and sales goals.

Many companies do know better, but their users are far from their top
priority. Several years ago I worked at a major hardware/software company
that was struggling. They brought in a new CEO to turn things around. One of
the things he did was to devise a list of principles by which we as workers
should embrace. Making sure that the company continued to provide value for
its investors was higher on the list that making sure that customers (users)
were satisfied.

I should note also that effective user analysis is *not* easy. It is a
time-consuming process with many traps for the unwary. False assumptions and
mistaken beliefs about users and their *real* goals can take even the best
designer down a wrong path. Worse, to management, done right, effective user
analysis is done at the beginning of the planning cycle, and so there sit a
bunch of programmers, chomping at the bit and not churning out code. Because
programmers are usually highly paid (and often seen as the gods and
goddesses of the organization), it is not kosher to have the idle (and not

Chuck Martin
Sr. Technical Writer, SERENA Software

"People who use business software might despise it, but they are getting
paid to tolerate it....Most people who are paid to use a tool feel
constrained not to complain about that tool, but it doesn't stop them from
feeling frustrated and unhappy about it."
- "The Inmates are Running the Asylum"
Alan Cooper

This email and any files transmitted with it are confidential and
intended solely for the use of the individual or entity to whom they
are addressed. Any unauthorized review, use, disclosure or distribution
is prohibited. If you are not the intended recipient, please contact
the sender by reply e-mail and destroy all copies of the original

Previous by Author: RE: Follow order of widget on screen, or logical order for proced ures?
Next by Author: RE: When to bold
Previous by Thread: Techies vs Usability
Next by Thread: RE: Techies vs Usability

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads