Over Thinking Usability

Posted on Aug 07, 2007

Usability is an important factor for any software project. We programmers are ultimately creating tools for other people to use after all. In creating solutions for these users, one must be aware on how the user will ultimately use it. We will eventually need to create an interface to our tool — the handle on the hammer, if you will.

The problem of bad interfaces can be traced to bad programmers and from a certain perspective, “usability specialists,” are the cure. Poor programming or a combination of bad code and even worse design will result in a sub-standard and awkward interface. If a development team can avoid those situations by hiring exceptional programmers and designing thoughtfully, they can integrate usability into the process of development and avoid the need for a usability specialist all together.

Specialists tend to become obsessed with their area of focus. They often believe that the success of the project relies on their every breath, which can lead to problems in the development process. An endless procession of revisions and constant tinkering are signs that you may be over thinking usability. The focus of a specialist, especially when that specialist is a project stake-holder, can bring the agility of your development team way down.

The key to good usability is to design for usability. Hire exceptional programmers. Integrate usability concerns into testing guidelines. Solicit feedback from users and use that feedback in your revisions. It simply requires a little consideration and some planning.

If you can avoid over-thinking your usability concerns, you can avoid slowing your project down.