Intellectual Honesty

Now, let me tell you I am not a person that believes that you need to be honest 100% of the time. Sometimes you have to tell yourself what you want to hear to get through the day. However, after 17 years of working this is starting to drive me batty. Why is it that very smart people continue to do things in a way that they know is sub-optimal or just outright wrong.

How many times are companies going to pretend that you can fit the 10,000 features in the 6 mo release? It never happend before. No one hired more people. So let’s play a game of chicken. I will keep the list of 10,000 and will keep telling you that we will make it. If I just push harder on my developers they can do it. Because as we all know more is better. More is better, especially when it is rushed.

Which brings me to, what the heck is going on with bug systems? Why are they used as work management systems? Can you imagine building your house the way enterprise software companies handle bugs. You should stand back and say, dude you messed up this area can you fix it. But nope, we say, there is a splinter at the end of the hall, please sand it off. Oh yeah when you are done with that I will tell you others. At the end of the hall there is a nick on the corner can you patch it. After that I will let you know the paint did not cover so well at that end either. Piece by piece you tell him what is wrong and then wonder why it looks so odd when he is done. Didn’t I tell you all of the issues?

Can we be a lot more intellectually honest and fix the things that are broke?


Developers: Just can’t see it

How many times have I worked through a design got the team to agree on it and when it comes back it looks nothing alike?

Design a form, design a screen, and layout the controls and the text. Make sure that the things that are grouped are what the user is looking for. Draw attention to the important things such as the content and data entered. De-empahsize the unimportant things like headers, labels and separators. Make the flow work and make the visuals intuitive.

What happens? A handful of developers can see the layout and understand what is being done. Most developers, even after working with them to teach about what is being sought after, cannot see the design. So what do they see? They see the stuff. They see the elements and their labels. They see the sections. They do not see the padding, margins, alignment, saturation, hue, flow, and control choice.

In this past week we had 2 developers send back simple dialogs saying they were finished. When we asked when they were going to make the UIs look the same, they returned a messages saying “Except for the button icons, what differences are you seeing? ” and “How is the implementation very different from my sketches?” In each case we had 8 and 13 basic points of difference.

Just because a developer is a good coder does not mean they can do well at creating UIs.

Or to be more crass, just because you have someone with a pulse on your development team does not mean that you should have them do UIs.

I will take 1 good UI developer that cares over a thousand developers “assigned to me” for building great UIs.

Building a product. Features first?

  • technology is most celebrated when it is most invisible
  • products that work, beautifully, without fuss and with great style
  • in simplicity
  • NOT with ever longer lists of features and technical specifications

“And technology is most celebrated when it is most invisible—when the machinery is completely hidden, combining godlike effortlessness with blissful ignorance about the mechanisms that deliver our disburdened lives. Apple made technology not for geeks but for cool people—and ordinary people. It made products that worked, beautifully, without fuss and with great style. They improved markedly, unmistakably, from one generation to the next—NOT with ever longer lists of features and technical specifications, but in simplicity. Press the single button on the face of the iPad and, whether you are 5 or 95, you can begin using it with almost no instruction. It has no manual. You cannot open it up to see its inner workings even if you want to. No geeks required—or allowed. The iPad offers its blessings to ordinary mortals.” – Wall Street Journal

Sorry that I do not have a link to this article. I got the quote through email. If you know what it is let me know.

UI design reviews

What is the point of the UI Design review?

  • to provide more information
  • to ever increase the fidelity of the design with the understanding of the target workflows and users
  • to communicate to the team
  • to get buy-in from the team
  • to critique design choices
  • to challenge constraints

What else happens in practice?

  • an opportunity to reflect and poke holes (arbitrarily)
  • a chance to complain
  • communal design
  • group think
  • scoping and sizing
  • determination of difficulty
  • assuming what the user wants is what the reviewer wants

When too much emphasis is on the second list the team is no longer looking to create the best product and the optimal experience.