June 23, 2007

A great quote on software

As I’ve been thinking about the future of user interfaces, I stopped by the Web site of noted UI designer Bill Buxton.  There I saw this remark:

A Personal Mantra: Ultimately, we are deluding ourselves if we think that the products that we design are the "things" that we sell, rather than the individual, social and cultural experience that they engender, and the value and impact that they have. Design that ignores this is not worthy of the name.

Right on, sir.  I tell anyone who’ll listen (and many who won’t) about the "Photoshop Nation," the power of connecting people, and the importance of giving a damn and getting things right.

A small number multiplied by a big number is still a big number, and some little improvement* may help only a small percentage of users, but that works out to a large number of people.  The social impact of doing so can be significant.  (It all reminds me of Steve Jobs equating boot time improvements to lives saved.)  It’s about not blocking the light.

Bonus quote, apropos of stirring things up on occasion: "Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on
the unthinking." –John Maynard Keynes

* I was pleased to hear a photographer named Brian Price comment this week on the ProDIG list that "[F]or me the clone ‘Ignore Adjustment Layers’ option in CS3 is worth the
upgrade price in itself"–a comment echoed by others.  It’s one of those tweaks that shows up rarely, if ever, in marketing materials, reviews, etc., but that can have a real impact.

Posted by John Nack at 12:57 PM on June 23, 2007

Comments

  • Pedro Estarque — 1:29 PM on June 23, 2007

    It’s one of those tweaks that shows up rarely, if ever, in marketing materials, reviews, etc., but that can have a real impact.
    Indeed. Another one is that double side arrow that came in cs2, that lets you swap hight/width values in crop’s options bar. Extremely simple and useful.
    [You noticed.
    I would really love if wrap’s twisting points respected the same option/command/shift conventions that free transform does. That would be a huge time saver. Maybe in the next point release?
    [I’ll look into it.
    By the way, I should mention that there’s a downside to all this: any bug or other shortcoming (e.g. snapshots in the History palette scrolling together with history states–a seeminly tiny thing, but one that’s been annoying power users for nearly 10 years) is all the more frustrating because you know that it does end up affecting a lot of people. We take these things really seriously, and it’s very hard for a bunch of perfectionists when you can’t make everything just as you’d like it. –J.]

  • Andrew Meit — 8:31 AM on June 28, 2007

    Another metaphor useful in talking about software is one of being a guest. I mean that a company should have a humble respect for the time and hard-disk of the User. A user has invited a company to be installed by buying the software. Being invited means installers/deinstallers should respect a user’s time and safety of the user’s hard-drive and not take 3 hrs unstalling a huge demo just to install the non-demo version.
    Over the years I have seen more and more companies treat the user’s Hard-drive as though they own it and can abuse it with faulty installers/unstallers. After seeing the horror of Adobe’s beta installer/unstallers and now my own experience with the demos, I would be very reluctant to beta-test Adobe stuff now. Doctors are trained to “do no harm”, perhaps Software companies should tape that reminder to their doors too! ;-)

  • Sally, software developer — 4:00 AM on August 28, 2007

    I agree that for us it’s rather hard to imagine that on our work we create something new and unique, we used to think that we just work for money. And it’s ok in our contemporary world.

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