Re: Question about Programmers and Usability

Subject: Re: Question about Programmers and Usability
From: "Larry Kunz ((919) 254-6395)" <ldkunz -at- VNET -dot- IBM -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 26 Feb 1998 14:17:43 EST

Suzanne Townsend asked, whence the notion that programmers don't
care about usability? Here are some thoughts....

- No programmer sets out to produce software that's hard to use.
Every programmer I know wants to produce something they can be
proud of. Convince a programmer that Option A will make the
product easier to use than Option B and, all things being equal,
the programmer will choose Option A.

- As Sella Rush points out, programmers sometimes have to shift
their focus from the big picture to the "code zone." (That
makes a lot of sense, Sella; and, believe me, it's not often
that I agree with someone named Rush.) On the big IBM software
projects I documented, each programmer usually worked on only
a few modules. It was understandably hard for them to see the
forest when focusing on a couple of trees.

- Here's one we can identify with. Sometimes programmers feel so
much pressure to code "to spec," to make deadlines, and to deal
with a hundred other day-to-day pressures, that usability slides
down the priority list a little bit.

- The very things that make them good programmers -- sharp,
analytical minds, attention to detail, keen intuition -- keep
programmers from fitting the "typical user" mold. Many of them
will cheerfully admit this and ask for your help to gain an
end-user's perspective.

To sum up: Programmers do value usability. The existence of
unusable software doesn't imply that programmers don't care.....
Any more than the existence of bad documentation implies that
technical writers don't care about communication.

Larry Kunz
STC Assistant to the President for Professional Development
mailto:ldkunz -at- vnet -dot- ibm -dot- com




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