Usability is one of my areas of interests because I’m doing mostly web front-end development. We have some standard guidelines to start from but still I have to take the technical decisions by myself. I’m quite proud to say that 99% of the time everyone is happy with my work.
There was only one occasion when my modern creativity was rejected and they requested the web page to be redone exactly like in the legacy application. The users refused to use my awesome creation because continuous calculations had to be done on that web page so scrolling up and down was inacceptable. Even if I felt at that moment a bit hurt, this was good feedback which I didn’t take for granted and it eventually improved my work.
I sometimes observe non-techie people trying to use desktop or web applications, which from my developer eyes is quite simple and straightforward. I was astonished how different they think and how difficult it is for them to use even the most basic functionalities, which seemed quite obvious to me.
I think front-end developers have to learn to see through their users’ eyes, otherwise their software will suck. So this is what I’m trying continuously to do.
One of the ways is to learn from the experts. When I was on TechEd two years ago, I attended David Platt’s session on why software sucks and what we can do about it. David Platt is an excellent speaker, everything what he said was true and the way he presented it all was so funny. As soon as I exited the room, I couldn’t help it and I hurried to the Microsoft Press booth to buy his book “Why software sucks… and what you can do about it”.
Since then I re-read it often and I can’t recommend it enough. I’m not going to describe it here but, if you’re not convinced yet, you can read a sample chapter or see examples from the book on his website, Why Software Sucks … And What You Can Do About It, by David S Platt.
I’ve already mentioned “Don’t Make Me Think!: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability” by Steve Krug in my previous post, Bookworm. I read last night the sample chapters that I downloaded on my Kindle and this book is also going in the same direction so it definitely made it on my must-read list.