Saturday, May 26, 2012

Artistic Options

On your browser (under the Tools menu) you will find an item that says "options." And when you are developing code for your employer using the latest IDE, say Visual Studio, you can naturally set the look-and-feel "options." So how is it that within the software you create for your coworkers you left out the Options settings?

Maybe personalization is of less importance when you have two hundred clients rather than two million, but I also believe that a large part of the failure to personalize is deliberate scope restrictions to begin with. In other words if only twenty percent of the users need to see "purchase history" then we segregate it off to a separate screen. It's as if we pull the oysters off the regular menu since only five patrons regularly order them and they know how to ask for them.

Occasionally during design you will discover however that several groups of people work on essentially the same subset of data, although you will hear preferences expressed in terms of "I'd rather see it this way." I'd rather have a pulldown list. I'd rather have all the ship-to data on the side.

Heck, even restaurants that have a tightly limited menu allow you the flexibility to build other victuals given their ingredients. Go to In-n-Out and you can get a 4 by 4 or Animal Style without the carhop even blinking an eye.

Sometimes screens can be cleaner (and easier to code) if you design from the start with the idea of user-selected optional components or views. You will please more folks if you allow for personalization: expand their options!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Artful Culture

In some development efforts, our goal is to deliver software that is "fun." In other words the purpose of the software is to Entertain. In most workplace environments however the goal is to deliver software that helps people get stuff done; in other words the software has Utility.

In actual cultural practice however, most developers strive to make their software a little bit of each: you want to make your software "fun enough" that folks don't get bored out of their skulls when using it while they are getting stuff done. In fact, you generally want to hit a certain sweet spot such that in addition to its Utility, what you produce is:

Culturally Appropriate, Fun, Inexpensive, Courteous, Accurate, Responsive

Unfortunately these "cultural" aspects of development are seldom if ever captured in an Analyst's "Requirements" document. They also fall a bit outside the realm of what IT management might normally consider as platform based "non- functional" requirements.

How does this culture get baked into the software then? Well it usually takes culturally aware developers.