Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Usability - Do You Believe in the Users?

Human beings are at the very core of User Experience Design. In my line of work (designing websites and software) there is an almost constant conflict between engineers & designers. The tech industry is constantly trying to streamline the way it operates, trading programming efficiency directly for User Experience.

I think everybody in tech is already aware of this imbalance and I was amused to see Google offering some user centered design lectures at their upcoming developer's conference. Here's a funny description of one session;

Do You Believe in the Users?
Too many programmers have forgotten about the lost art of customer service. All software has users, though most developers have forgotten how to respect them, trust them, or “sell” their software to them in an exciting (but honest!) manner. This talk will focus on anecdotes and strategies for keeping software design uncomplicated, making software fast, and putting usability above programming convenience. We’ll also focus on the importance of keeping a healthy illusion of simplicity, while allowing abstractions to deliberately leak for power-users.

Wow. Things must be really bad if Google has to start lecturing a bunch of programmers about usability. I'm almost tempted to attend the conference just so I can see how many people show up for these sessions!

I'm not sure that targeting developers is the most effective way to send this message. The tech industry doesn't need Google to remind them of the obvious. Business leaders in tech simply need to be strategic and invest in design. HIRE A DESIGNER. Work with them. Foster some collaboration. I'm calling for a culture shift in how software is made. Let's end the unhappy marriage of programing and design.

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