Programmer divide in IxD (was Help: Looking for another me)

14 Sep 2004 - 3:03pm
9 years ago
3 replies
460 reads
Christian Simon
2003

> on 9/9/04 12:01, Jef wrote:
> You are correct to observe that knowing programming could interfere, as
> you said in your full post: the designer anticipates a difficult
> implementation and so might reject a better interface design. But there
> is the opposite also. It has happened that a programmer has come to me
> saying that something I proposed is too hard or impossible to
> implement. Because I know how to program and am good at algorithm
> design, I can show the programmer how it can be done easily, or at
> least within practical bounds.

Sorry if this is responding to an old post from last week, I'm just getting
to a point that was made. I think this last statement is very strange. In
the context of these conversations about what makes a good IxDer, the notion
of telling a programmer how to do something easier is extraordinary.

It seems in opposition to some of the consensus of what is the >core> of
IxD. That IxD is design first. That the responsibility is to experience and
cohesion, before good code.

I'm not arguing with the value of programming. If you are really good at
everything and can do the job of the programmer then you're valuable to any
organization. I'm suggesting that the focus in the relationship between
experts-management. This hands-on approach is problematic for me.

Even Jef might back away from suggesting that what makes him a good at
designing interfaces is showing up his programmers. <grin>

xtian

Comments

14 Sep 2004 - 5:06pm
Jim McCusker
2004

Christian Simon wrote:

> I'm not arguing with the value of programming. If you are really good at
>
>everything and can do the job of the programmer then you're valuable to any
>organization. I'm suggesting that the focus in the relationship between
>experts-management. This hands-on approach is problematic for me.
>
>
Being a developer/IxDer, I think that it has helped me introduce
user-centered-design (and other user-experience-related concepts) into
an organization that wouldn't have bothered/couldn't have afforded it
otherwise. I was hired as a Java/Swing developer, but I quickly took
responsibility for the actual design and architecture of the front-end
product. Mostly, this was because no one else was doing it. There were
times that I had to triage and say "this is too hard to get done on
time. We need to scale back and accept some compromises", but the
company had limited resources, and had to put their money where it does
the most good.

This, if anything, has been a big struggle with me in both roles, but it
would have just been externalized if I had been two people (designer and
developer). I mean, what are we working for these companies for? They
hire us to make more money by improving their users' experience. But
things do need to be prioritized, and unfortunately (from a design
perspective) sellable features (that the customer can't do without) will
always trump monotony and modelessness.

So I always get nervous when the folks here talk about IxD ideals as
absolutes - things must be modeless, not things should be as modeless as
possible. Within the context of a resource-constrained company, that
sort of thinking can put a company out of business. So my application
has login and error dialogs, it has dialog-style wizards (because I
haven't gotten to refactoring them into a better format), and yes, it
has some bugs. I'm annoyed to the hills about all of this, but I keep it
in perspective. It has far fewer and better dialogs than it has in the
past. It has no "Options" dialog, for instance, and the main tool is
based on direct manipulation. But if I set off to fix everything that's
wrong in the UI, we would be ignoring what the customers really need -
in our case, a stable high performance computing application server.

Have I left the true path? Does it matter? I still have my map, and I'm
keeping our product headed in the right direction...

Jim

14 Sep 2004 - 5:52pm
Jef Raskin
2004

On Sep 14, 2004, at 3:06 PM, Jim McCusker wrote:

> things must be modeless, not things should be as modeless as possible.

Of course that is what is meant. If I put things as absolutes it is
because they are absolute goals. But in my experience, many designers
say that what they have done is as modeless as possible; and so it
seems to be until someone comes along who tries harder.

Time after time (and in my case that's lots of times) I have been able
to make a system modeless after designers said that it was impossible
to do so. Except for certain toolbar situations, I have always been
able to make a widget truly modeless.

14 Sep 2004 - 8:54pm
Listera
2004

Christian Simon:

> In the context of these conversations about what makes a good IxDer, the
> notion of telling a programmer how to do something easier is extraordinary.
>
> It seems in opposition to some of the consensus of what is the >core> of
> IxD. That IxD is design first. That the responsibility is to experience and
> cohesion, before good code.

Jef doesn't need me to defend what he said, but there's more to development
(cf. design) than a programmer writing code. (I do both.) Procedural code
writing is getting thorough commoditized and, perhaps, a majority of
programmers out there are doing just that.

What's much more difficult and requires more expertise/experience is
application design/architecture, efficient messaging systems, latency
optimization, scalability, effective mapping of real-world workflows to
objects, etc. These require more abstract and cross-discipline thinking.
You're unlikely to get that from a junior programmer who's probably more
focused on algorithmic implementation than on structural design.

For a seasoned IxD practitioner with a technical background, there's an
intersection of design and development at the level of abstraction I
outlined above where it'd would be entirely reasonable, even expected to
provide advice and influence. I've done that many times, but I always waited
until a level of trust was established so that my advice wasn't taken as
power grab or personal attack.

Ziya
Nullius in Verba

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