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Software Aesthetics and Quality

32 replies on 3 pages. Most recent reply: Dec 13, 2002 9:55 AM by Bill Venners

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Bill Venners

Posts: 2284
Nickname: bv
Registered: Jan, 2002

Software Aesthetics and Quality Posted: Dec 3, 2002 8:39 AM
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This short article by Charles Connell suggests that software is generally poorly designed because users can't see the design, and identifies seven properties of beautiful software.

http://www.chc-3.com/pub/beautifulsoftware.htm

Here's an excerpt:

Most software design is lousy. Most software is so bad, in fact, that if it were a bridge, no one in his or her right mind would walk across it. If it were a house, we would be afraid to enter. The only reason we (software engineers) get away with this scam is the general public cannot see inside of software systems. If software design were as visible as a bridge or house, we would be hiding our heads in shame.

We would not accept a new house with sloping floors, holes in the ceilings, nails sticking out of the walls, and an outrageous price -- even if it minimally met basic needs. We would not be content with the explanation: "Well, it has a front door, which usually opens. You can find your way to the kitchen, but watch out for the nails. The holes in the ceiling don't really leak. And sure it ran 300% over budget, but houses often do." Rather than crooked floors, the software manifestations of poor design are redundancy, unnecessary performance bottlenecks, intertwined bugs that cannot be fixed, impenetrable code, and other ills. Unfortunately, we often accept software in just such a state. Regularly, companies release code like this to external and internal customers. And customers accept delivery. Businesses pay billions of dollars per year for this kind of software during mergers and acquisitions.

This article is a challenge to engineers, managers, executives and software users (which is everyone) to raise our standards about software. We should expect the same level of quality and performance in software we demand in physical construction. Instead of trying to create software that works in a minimal sense, we should be creating software that has internal beauty. Beautiful programs work better, cost less, match user needs, have fewer bugs, run faster, are easier to fix, and have a longer life span. Raising our standards for software is not a luxury to be reserved for programmers with extra time on their hands. Creating aesthetically pleasing software is crucial to creating better and less expensive software -- in fact, they are one and the same endeavor.

Software aesthetics is a qualitative judgment, but, like physical architecture, it includes some general principles. All beautiful software has the following properties.

* Cooperation

* Appropriate form

* System minimality

* Component singularity

* Functional locality

* Readability

* Simplicity


To what extent do you believe the author's notion that software design is bad because software design is usually invisible? Do you believe that "Creating aesthetically pleasing software is crucial to creating better and less expensive software?" What do you think of the author's seven properties of beautiful software?


Alex

Posts: 18
Nickname: alexbcit
Registered: Nov, 2002

Re: Software Aesthetics and Quality Posted: Dec 3, 2002 4:53 PM
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It is very important to differentiate between the two fundamental aspects of software:

1. Software as the end-users experience it
2. Software as the designers/developers experience it

Of the two, the aspect number 1 (end-users' perspective) is considerably more important than the aspect number 2. Yet, it is disproportionately less represented in most reviews/discussions I've seen. I find this trend to be utterly alarming.

Although we're absolutely clear on the huge impact that non-elegant source code has on the productivity and quality of the software products, we seem less aware of the detrimental effects that non-elegant behavior of a software product has on its end-users. This is the topic I would like to see discussed in more depth here.

If the software product behaves elegantly, then we could arguably tolerate its less than perfect internals. The opposite is never true -- a piece of software may exhibit beautiful elegance when it comes to how its internals are organized, but if it behaves in an aggravating manner, it cannot be tolerated. It is fundamentally faulty, no matter what the designers/coders say.

End users never care about the innards of a software product. Elegance in that compartment doesn't count for much. They only care whether that product delivers in a way that's acceptable to them.

Alex

Raghu Havaldar

Posts: 2
Nickname: wildwest59
Registered: May, 2002

Re: Software Aesthetics and Quality Posted: Dec 4, 2002 3:02 PM
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One would think to get to #1, # 2 is (almost) essential.
Elegance and Simplicity usually occurs across the
board (to developers and users). If not, the potential
failure points in usefulness, usability and flexibility
is woefully exposed to the user.

Of course, the user is 'conditioned' to accept such
quality....but, usually, he/she do not have a choice !

Guess one should think of software development as a
more wholistic effort rather than stressing one
experience versus the other. Harmony across both
user and developer experiences create great software.

Bill Venners

Posts: 2284
Nickname: bv
Registered: Jan, 2002

Re: Software Aesthetics and Quality Posted: Dec 4, 2002 4:03 PM
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> Although we're absolutely clear on the huge impact that
> non-elegant source code has on the productivity and
> quality of the software products, we seem less aware of
> the detrimental effects that non-elegant behavior of a
> software product has on its end-users. This is the topic I
> would like to see discussed in more depth here.
>
At best, non-elegant behavior of a software product makes users frustrated, at worst, it kills them.

> If the software product behaves elegantly, then we could
> arguably tolerate its less than perfect internals. The
> opposite is never true -- a piece of software may exhibit
> beautiful elegance when it comes to how its internals are
> organized, but if it behaves in an aggravating manner, it
> cannot be tolerated. It is fundamentally faulty, no matter
> what the designers/coders say.
>
You say that if software behaves in an aggravating manner it can't be tolerated. That depends on what you mean by "tolerated." People will use a buggy product if they feel they are getting what they want from it and feel it is better than the alternatives, though they will be frustrated. Also, a product isn't either aggravating or not, it is aggravating to one extent or another. One person's aggravation is another person's feature. Also, people expect or desire different levels of quality from different kinds of products. I try to keep both my dinner plates and my floors clean, but I keep my plates cleaner than my floors. Why? Because I have a higher standard of cleanliness for plates than floors. The same is true for software products. People demand more reliability out of their pace makers than their word processors. The interaction between software quality and user satisfaction is complex and varies from situation to situation.

> End users never care about the innards of a software
> product. Elegance in that compartment doesn't count for
> much. They only care whether that product delivers in a
> way that's acceptable to them.
>
I agree with your statement that end users don't care about innards, except perhaps to the extent that innard problems bleed out and become user experience problems. But even in that case, what the user really cares about is the user experience problem.

The people who should care about innards are the people providing the product, because the design of the innards influences the external reliability, external performance, the ease with which bugs can be fixed and enhancements made in future releases, developer angst, and so on.

User experience would be a fine topic to discuss at this site. We have certainly talked about it before, and the entire Place Project is all about user experience of network delivered services. I'll try and locate some good user experience articles and post them to News & Ideas. I encourage others to post links to any interesting or insightful user experience articles as well.

And since you are using software right now, I am interested in feedback about the user experience of this site. I've tried hard to make the site easy and fun to use, but I always want to try and improve it. So I welcome suggestions and feedback on the user experience of Artima.com.

Mike Spille

Posts: 25
Nickname: mspille
Registered: Nov, 2002

Re: Software Aesthetics and Quality Posted: Dec 4, 2002 7:09 PM
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>
> And since you are using software right now, I am
> interested in feedback about the user experience of this
> site. I've tried hard to make the site easy and fun to
> use, but I always want to try and improve it. So I welcome
> suggestions and feedback on the user experience of
> Artima.com.

I'd say it's excellent and one of the better ones around in terms of usability. There's alot of detail that casual users might not notice that make a big difference - like going back to the original requested page after forcing a login, the "Formatting Your Post" box on the right of this input box as I type, etc. My only beef is "Quote Original" doesn't always seem to work if I've been messing around with forward/back buttons.

-Mike

Bill Venners

Posts: 2284
Nickname: bv
Registered: Jan, 2002

Re: Software Aesthetics and Quality Posted: Dec 4, 2002 7:15 PM
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> My only beef is "Quote
> Original" doesn't always seem to work if I've been messing
> around with forward/back buttons.
>
I've noticed that too, that clicking around the forward and backward button in the browser makes certain posts buttons not work. I assumed it had to do with my browser, though. Apparently not. I'll check into that. Does anyone know if this is a common problem with posting in general?

Alex

Posts: 18
Nickname: alexbcit
Registered: Nov, 2002

Re: Software Aesthetics and Quality Posted: Dec 5, 2002 10:31 AM
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>You say that if software behaves in an aggravating manner
>it can't be tolerated. That depends on what you mean
>by "tolerated." People will use a buggy product if they
>feel they are getting what they want from it and feel it
>is better than the alternatives, though they will be
>frustrated.

It is true that people sometime show the tendency to 'live with a toothache'. Either out of fearing the dentist, or out of financial constraints, some people tend to prolong the visit to the professional who can help them. Instead, they opt for using the pain killers (cheaper, more convenient, less confrontational).

Same is in the world of humans-using-software. Most of the time, it is painful to use a software product, but we try and desensitize ourselves from the excruciating pain.

When I say that the above can't be tolerated, I mean we, as a professional community, cannot accept that as the norm. I know that the end users will talk themselves into 'tolerating' it, because for them there's no alternative. I hate MS Word, but I don't have a choice. And so on.

However, being a professional software developer, I cannot stand here and claim, with a straight face, that me and my colleagues are delivering quality products, when I have plenty of evidence to the contrary. I can plainly see my users contorting in pain. How can we proclaim such state as being indicative of quality?

I'm afraid that you may be overlooking the big problem, partially by relegating it to the 'frustrating experience' department. It usually is more serious than mere frustration. What we, as developers, don't realize is that our actions and decisions have the power to sentence potentially large number of human users to months and years of sheer misery. We develop our products, have fun with it, spend maybe a couple of hours playing with the finished product, and then throw it at the users community, without giving it a second thought. We typically do not realize that from that point on, numerous people will be forced to use our creations 8 hours a day, five days a week. What seemed like a mildly annoying 'feature' to us, quickly turns into a bloody nightmare for a person who has to live with it for many years to come. I've discovered that myself and my colleagues almost never stop to think about these extremely important issues.

I remember the first time I've realized this, I was terrified. Most of my colleagues are still blissfully unaware of this conundrum, but I think it's time we accept our larger scale social responsibility.

>Also, a product isn't either aggravating or
>not, it is aggravating to one extent or another. One
>person's aggravation is another person's feature. Also,
>people expect or desire different levels of quality from
>different kinds of products.

I was referring more to the fundamental kind of aggravating experience. The one that knows no gradation. Most software products that I've been using are guilty of that type of wounds-inflicting behavior.

For example, any software product that treats human users with disrespect is fully and totally aggravating. No gradation there. Same as in real life, if a service provider is not showing the respect to you, the customer, you feel aggravated. Doesn't matter if it's a small, barely noticeable off-the-cuff remark, or an all out assault, disrespect always hurts and leaves scars.

At this point, I must confess that I'd be hard pressed to identify even a single software product that does not behave, for the most parts, in such a manner to insult my intelligence. Suffice it here to recall how many times have we witnessed users yelling at a software application, saying something to the effect of: "I already told you to do that, you moron!", etc. This is a symptom of showing no respect whatsoever to the service consumer. And this disrespect stems from us, software developers.

>People demand more reliability out of
>their pace makers than their word processors. The
>interaction between software quality and user satisfaction
>is complex and varies from situation to situation.

Regardless of that complexity, I'd like to reiterate my strong conviction that people always demand to be treated with respect. And that's something they almost never get from software products.

Of course, lack of respect in almost all software products existing today is barely a tip of the iceberg when it comes to how useless and damaging these things unfortunately are. Only we, the community of software developers, can remedy this shameful situation.

Alex

Alex

Posts: 18
Nickname: alexbcit
Registered: Nov, 2002

Re: Software Aesthetics and Quality Posted: Dec 5, 2002 10:41 AM
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>User experience would be a fine topic to discuss at this
>site. We have certainly talked about it before, and the
>entire Place Project is all about user experience of
>network delivered services. I'll try and locate some good
>user experience articles and post them to News & Ideas. I
>encourage others to post links to any interesting or
>insightful user experience articles as well.

User experience is the central theme to software design. I find it funny that you think it's merely a 'fine topic'. It's almost like Microsoft or IBM saying: "Being profitable is a fine intention that could be talked about at the next board meeting." To them, being profitable is not merely a 'fine topic', it is the be-all, end-all!

I hate sounding alarmistic (a la Y2K doomsters), but I think it really is high time that software leaders, at least, wake up to this urgent problem of inflicting wounds on end-users with poorly thought out software design. Primarily, we must focus on end-users' experience. Only once we're absolutely certain that we have the design that's going to minimize the aggravating experience, should we proceed with worrying about the innards of the product.

>And since you are using software right now, I am
>interested in feedback about the user experience of this
>site. I've tried hard to make the site easy and fun to
>use, but I always want to try and improve it. So I welcome
>suggestions and feedback on the user experience of
>Artima.com.

When I hit reply, it would be nice to have the original already quoted and formated for me. I can then decide if I wish to accept the default, or I can edit the quote (or easily dismiss it altogether).

Of course, I could post other critique of the product I'm using right now, but I think I've been sufficiently negative already, crowing about the problems with usability etc., so I'll stop here.

Thanks.

Alex

Bill Venners

Posts: 2284
Nickname: bv
Registered: Jan, 2002

Re: Software Aesthetics and Quality Posted: Dec 5, 2002 10:51 AM
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> User experience is the central theme to software design. I
> find it funny that you think it's merely a 'fine topic'.
> It's almost like Microsoft or IBM saying: "Being
> profitable is a fine intention that could be talked about
> at the next board meeting." To them, being profitable is
> not merely a 'fine topic', it is the be-all, end-all!
>
Well, I mean user experience is a fine topic for Artima.com, in other words, that I welcome and would like to promote discussion of that topic here at this site.

> When I hit reply, it would be nice to have the original
> already quoted and formated for me. I can then decide if I
> wish to accept the default, or I can edit the quote (or
> easily dismiss it altogether).
>
I've thought about that, but I'm not sure that's what everyone wants. When replying to long posts I suspect it might anoy people to have to go and delete everything. If you look around you'll notice a lot of people don't include quotes in their replies. I do, but I don't find it hard to push the quote button. How do others feel about this issue?

> Of course, I could post other critique of the product I'm
> using right now, but I think I've been sufficiently
> negative already, crowing about the problems with
> usability etc., so I'll stop here.
>
Please don't stop. Constructive criticism is welcome and helps me figure out where to focus development efforts to improve the user experience of the site. So fire away!

Alex

Posts: 18
Nickname: alexbcit
Registered: Nov, 2002

Re: Software Aesthetics and Quality Posted: Dec 5, 2002 10:56 AM
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> One would think to get to #1, # 2 is (almost) essential.
> Elegance and Simplicity usually occurs across the
> board (to developers and users). If not, the potential
> failure points in usefulness, usability and flexibility
> is woefully exposed to the user.

Sounds very reasonable to me. I'm just cautious against allowing some sort of mythology to seep in. Conceivably, it is possible that the correlation between #1 and #2 is a myth, wouldn't you agree? In other words, maybe there is a discontinuity between the two. Maybe you could have a beautifully designed and coded software product that behaves in a real nasty manner.

As a matter of fact, I *know* for certain that such thing is possible. On the other hand, is it possible that one could end up with an extremely sloppy, ugly and unwieldy application code that nevertheless exhibits smooth, elegant, high quality behavior? I don't know.

Consider the following example: a person has some problems with his bank, and sets up an appointment with the customer service representative. The service representative turns out to be a spectacularly gorgeous young lady, who simply looks stunning. The customer is obviously pleased with the eye candy offered to him. But then, the bank gives him a crappy treatment, showing absolutely no respect for the needs of the paying customer. Eventually, the customer becomes so frustrated that he gets up and furiously leaves. They turned his life into a living hell. At that point, would the stunning looks of the service representative mean anything to that customer?

I tell the same story to my developers. Building pretty screens and pages contributes nothing to the experience of quality, if the other features are crappy. On the other hand, even an ugly, unsightly service representative will produce satisfied customers if all their needs have been addressed in a timely and courteous manner.

> Guess one should think of software development as a
> more wholistic effort rather than stressing one
> experience versus the other. Harmony across both
> user and developer experiences create great software.

I think we need to prioritize. Achieving holistic unity and harmony is a lofty goal, but still I'd argue that the head is more important than the toes.

Alex

Bill Venners

Posts: 2284
Nickname: bv
Registered: Jan, 2002

Re: Software Aesthetics and Quality Posted: Dec 5, 2002 3:48 PM
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> I'm afraid that you may be overlooking the big problem,
> partially by relegating it to the 'frustrating experience'
> department. It usually is more serious than mere
> frustration. What we, as developers, don't realize is that
> our actions and decisions have the power to sentence
> potentially large number of human users to months and
> years of sheer misery. We develop our products, have fun
> with it, spend maybe a couple of hours playing with the
> finished product, and then throw it at the users
> community, without giving it a second thought. We
> typically do not realize that from that point on, numerous
> people will be forced to use our creations 8 hours a day,
> five days a week. What seemed like a mildly annoying
> 'feature' to us, quickly turns into a bloody nightmare for
> a person who has to live with it for many years to come.
> I've discovered that myself and my colleagues almost never
> stop to think about these extremely important issues.

I have also experienced a lot of frustrating software and web sites, but I don't believe that the only cause is that developers don't stop to think about making users happy. For one, I think it isn't easy to figure out how to make users happy. It takes skill and experience and maybe even some innate design ability to make users happy, and a lot of developers don't have it.

Also, developers are often told by management to worry about other things. You claimed in an earlier post that "User experience is the central theme to software design." That's an interesting statement that would be interesting to discuss, but I would counter that even if that's true, software design is not the central theme of a software business. The quality of your software's design is important to some extent to the business's bottom line. User experience is important to some extent, but it is not the only way developers can help the business. Adding features that helps the marketeers differentiate the product from competitors may be important. Meeting a market window, being first to market, and so on is often critical. And cramming in features and getting something out the door fast is usually in tension with creating a good user experience.

Lastly, I think a real cause of bad software is that people buy bad software. If you always being frustrated by software, then why are you buying it? I think the answer is that, frustration or not, you are getting something out of the software that is worth the money and the frustration to you. Over time, the quality of the user experience may become more important to customer's buying decision, but so far it seems like usability takes a back seat to functionality and availability in customer decisions.

Bill Venners

Posts: 2284
Nickname: bv
Registered: Jan, 2002

Re: Software Aesthetics and Quality Posted: Dec 5, 2002 3:58 PM
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> At this point, I must confess that I'd be hard pressed to
> identify even a single software product that does not
> behave, for the most parts, in such a manner to insult my
> intelligence. Suffice it here to recall how many times
> have we witnessed users yelling at a software application,
> saying something to the effect of: "I already told you to
> do that, you moron!", etc. This is a symptom of showing no
> respect whatsoever to the service consumer. And this
> disrespect stems from us, software developers.
>
Perhaps that's one cause of the difference between your perspective and mine. I can think of many software products that I use regularly that I'm happy with. I try hard not to sound like the typical Apple bigot, but my level of satisfaction went up dramatically when I switch 1.5 years ago to using OS X as my primary desktop OS. I also use Windows 95 and XP and Linux, so I dip my hand in many OS's. My level of satisfaction with OS X in part comes from the fact that I am very comfortable and happy to use Unix, but I've learned there really is some truth to the "easier to use" stories that Apple uses to promote their computers. I do have some complaints, but on the whole I'm satisfied.

I'm also not too terribly frustrated by my cell phone, or my alarm clock, or my microwave oven, all of which are running software that interacts with me as a user.

Alex

Posts: 18
Nickname: alexbcit
Registered: Nov, 2002

Re: Software Aesthetics and Quality Posted: Dec 5, 2002 4:59 PM
Reply to this message Reply
> > When I hit reply, it would be nice to have the original
> > already quoted and formated for me. I can then decide if
> I
> > wish to accept the default, or I can edit the quote (or
> > easily dismiss it altogether).
> >
> I've thought about that, but I'm not sure that's what
> everyone wants. When replying to long posts I suspect it
> might anoy people to have to go and delete everything. If
> you look around you'll notice a lot of people don't
> include quotes in their replies.

I must say I *love* your iron logic! Thanks for bringing this up, Bill, it perfectly illustrates what's wrong with 99% of today's software.

I must make a confession here and admit that I am so stupid that I actually almost fell for your explanation. Luckily, I managed to get back to my senses at the last minute, and it saved me from buying your argument. But, truth be told, I almost fell victim of it (other people, however, are much less likely to be as gullible as I am).

What we have here, in a nutshell, is what I'd like to call the 'Soviet Union principle'. The communists in the former USSR decided to close all the borders, so that no one could leave the country. When later on they were criticised for having closed borders, their stock reply was: "when was the last time you saw anyone crossing the border?" Their argument was that if, statistically speaking, the evidence shows that it is highly unlikely that anyone would cross the border, why is it all of a sudden a big issue?

Such self-fulfilling prophecies are the norm in the world of software development. We, the designers, design systems with features that are extremely difficult (or nearly impossible) to use, and then when someone complains about that, we reply that, statistically speaking, no one seems to be using that anyway, so what's the big fuss?

Similarly here, you (or someone on your team) have designed a product that makes it difficult for people to insert their comments on the quoted text. That created a situation where majority of the users simply type their comments straight into the blank text area. Then, you turn around and use that anomaly as an explanatory principle, explaining away your poor design decision.

Sure, it's easy to find a good excuse for anything, however that doesn't necessarily redeem poor design decisions. I especially like your additional explanation:

> I do, but I don't find it
> hard to push the quote button.

Exactly. That's because *you've* designed it, so you know precisely how is it going to behave. But not all of your users will be so keen on learning that, as it is a highly unusual feature (I've been using numerous other online forums and I've never seen the "Quote Original" action being included). So, your design suffers from deviating from the norm, thus inflicting a certain level of confusion that is making me, and potentially other users as well, highly uncomfortable.

In addition, I must tell you that at first I was forced to pull out and abstain from posting my comments, because I wasn't sure what are my comments going to be posted against. Clicking on the "Reply" action brings me to an empty canvas, which made me feel extremely uneasy. Only later on did I realize that you are echoing the content of the post I'm replying to. By the content was buried lower on the page, and I didn't realize that until I started exploring the page and managed to scroll down. But that was a fluke on my part, so again, to me this smacks of a poor design (i.e. relying on a fluke to inform the user of what's available).

This all stems from the failure to recognize the importance of an end-user (a human user). The primary dictum in the world of software design is that the product we're designing and building has one, and only one purpose -- to support the workflow of the human user. The software product we're discussing here failed to obey that dictum, and it interrupted my workflow, my train of thought, to the point where I had to completely abandon my intentions. That's gotta be bad in anyone's book.

> > Of course, I could post other critique of the product
> I'm
> > using right now, but I think I've been sufficiently
> > negative already, crowing about the problems with
> > usability etc., so I'll stop here.
> >
> Please don't stop. Constructive criticism is welcome and
> helps me figure out where to focus development efforts to
> improve the user experience of the site. So fire away!

Bill, I already feel extremely bad about being so negative and having to lambaste your chops here. The thing that I feel compelled to tell you is that this little fiasco with the "quite original" action (or the lack of it thereof) is the least of your problems when it comes to the design of this site. But I'd rather not go there. I know I could easily excuse myself and mount my high horse and go at it with gusto (after all, you did openly invite me to 'fire away!'), but I don't think it would be a pretty sight.

However, on the positive side, this is a great site content-wise! And that's what keeps bringing me back here (if it were down to only the design of this site, you'd never see me again after the first visit!) So, if you don't mind I'd like to continue enjoying the great posts and the great discussions here, and I'll learn to live with the less-than-perfect design of the software product that makes all of this possible.

Cheers!

Alex

Matt Gerrans

Posts: 1153
Nickname: matt
Registered: Feb, 2002

Re: Software Aesthetics and Quality Posted: Dec 5, 2002 5:22 PM
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> ...explaining away your poor design decision.

"Poor" is of course a subjective term and easy to throw around. It is poor in your opinion, perhaps. I think if quoting the original were the default, the forum would be polluted with tons of unnecessary quoted originals. That's even worse, especially on a web forum, where you can see all the originals right there on the same page. I've seen this and been baffled by it in other forums (or in when searching Google groups, for example, where it gets very confusing to figure out the order of posts, because of it). I've also often seen people being admonished (to put it mildly) for quoting original text when it was unnecessary (usually a result of a newsreader that does it by default).

Another thing to consider is that the interface for a web-based forum doesn't have the flexibility of innovative user interface design that an application has.

And of course, it is always easier to complain about things than it is to suggest something better. Have you designed a better interface for web forums?

Can you point to any web sites that provide good examples of what you think good user interface design is?

Bill Venners

Posts: 2284
Nickname: bv
Registered: Jan, 2002

Re: Software Aesthetics and Quality Posted: Dec 5, 2002 5:32 PM
Reply to this message Reply
> Bill, I already feel extremely bad about being so negative
> and having to lambaste your chops here. The thing that I
> feel compelled to tell you is that this little fiasco with
> the "quite original" action (or the lack of it thereof) is
> the least of your problems when it comes to the design of
> this site. But I'd rather not go there. I know I could
> easily excuse myself and mount my high horse and go at it
> with gusto (after all, you did openly invite me to 'fire
> away!'), but I don't think it would be a pretty sight.
>
> However, on the positive side, this is a great site
> content-wise! And that's what keeps bringing me back here
> (if it were down to only the design of this site, you'd
> never see me again after the first visit!) So, if you
> don't mind I'd like to continue enjoying the great posts
> and the great discussions here, and I'll learn to live
> with the less-than-perfect design of the software product
> that makes all of this possible.
>
No, you're not going to get away that easy. Since we both thing usability is an important subject for developers to discuss, and since everyone here on this forum by definition using Artima.com, I think it is a good opportunity to discuss usability with concrete examples. So please post your critiques and any suggestions you have for improvements, and you and I and others can discuss it. I promise I won't take anything personally. I truly do welcome constructive criticism, and I think it will be good way to get some discussion going about usability in general.

So please fire away!

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