Monthly Archives: February 2009

Two sure fired ways to succeed in software development

Steve Baty pointed me in the direction of the excellent article on Agile Product Design, Twelve emerging best practices for adding UX work to Agile development.

In the same vein as my last post, How to create better products? Say no by default, I was particularly taken by the two pieces of advice for success in software development:

  1. Start sooner
  2. Build less software

Obviously this is rather glib and simplified, but how often is simple overlooked in favour of the complex. The article is excellent and well worth a read.

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How to create better products? Say no by default

I stumbled across Derek Sivers post, Say NO by default, via Joshua Porter’s Designing for the Social Web (which I’m sure I’ll write about once I’ve consumed it).

The post struck a real cord with me. Particularly the following:

Say no by default – in design, business, and even life. Simple is beautiful. Instead of doing something “because you can”, consider thinking “only if necessary”.

Also the anecdote about how Steve Jobs defended the simplicity of the iPod/iTunes concept to independent record label executives:

In June of 2003, Steve Jobs gave a small private presentation about the iTunes Music Store to some independent record label people. My favorite line of the day was when people kept raising their hand saying, “Does it do ___(x)___?”, “Do you plan to add ___(y)___?”. Finally Jobs said, “Wait wait – put your hands down. Listen: I know you have a thousand ideas for all the cool features iTunes *could* have. So do we. But we don’t want a thousand features. That would be ugly. Innovation is not about saying yes to everything. It’s about saying NO to all but the most crucial features.

The post is bang on the mark. Features should be argued in rather than out. Products should focus on doing a few things really well rather than being all things to all people.

Another favourite quote of mine on this subject comes from Richard Seymour:

Innovation starts with people, not with enabling technologies…if you forget this you risk delivering feature-rich rubbish into already overcrowded lives.

Don’t listen to what people say

I am finally getting around to reading Barry Schwartz‘s much recommended The paradox of choice.

The booked is filled with great stories to support his tenet that “the culture of abundance robs us of satisfaction”.

I was particularly struck by a paragraph around the problems we have around deciding and choosing:

So it seems that neither our predictions about how we will feel after an experience nor our memories of how we did feel during the experience are very accurate reflections of how we actually do feel while the experience is occuring. And yet it is memories of the past and expectations for the future that govern our choices.

(his italics)

The quote has strong echoes of Neilsen’s first rule of usability:

To design an easy-to-use interface, pay attention to what users do, not what they say. Self-reported claims are unreliable, as are user speculations about future behavior.

Schwartz is preaching to the converted with me, but it is great to have more anecdotes to tell to support your beliefs.

If you don’t own a copy, go order yourself one!