Hard to Revise a UI

Subject: Hard to Revise a UI
From: Nancy Allison <maker -at- verizon -dot- net>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Mon, 09 Oct 2006 11:56:25 -0400

Hi, everyone. I'm trying to get to grips with a topic that's not clear to me. In a nutshell, I'd like to be able to explain why it's a bad idea for a company to develop a product's functions first, before thinking about the user interface (or documentation).

For example, I know of a startup where the developers have created very powerful functions, with the strangest user interface you have ever seen. It is just plain bizarre. Functions have strange names; tools are scattered around the interface in no discernible order; different buttons lead to confusingly similar drop-down lists and directories, with no clear indication of what you can or can't do in each area.

It's a geek's paradise, and a total mess. The lead developer said to me, "Oh, we'll fix the UI later."

Even in less drastic situations, developers often think this. But, I have heard that it may not be possible to completely redo a UI once the software architecture is in place. This is what I would like to understand, so that I can intelligently explain it, with examples.

So, folks, does anyone on this list know of a good example? Why would it be difficult to revise a UI? What are the difficulties involved? Can revising a UI actually break the functioning of the software? Can it force the redevelopment of the underlying software? Thanks for any and all help!



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