Users Want Usability, Not Codability!

Oct 30 2010 12:00 by Viral Age

Topics: 45

Replies: 2

Why is it that software developers continually lose focus on who their users are and what those users really want?

There is a huge disconnect between what coders and their actual end users like most about their software. The fact is that most users will rarely understand, appreciate, or even be curious at all about the actual lines of code that make it all work. And why should they? If they did understand or care, they'd probably be programmers themselves!

What users do care about is what the software does for them, and how easy it is to make it happen. They focus on the key features and the overall usability. Unfortunately, coders keep pumping out software that is:

- bloated with "cool" features added impulsively,
- stuffed with hundreds of options most users will never bother changing from the defaults, and
- plagued with options enabled only by editing configuration files or style templates, etc.

The suggestion that "Users want more features" is a myth! Yet coders continue to insist that their typical user must be interested in and at least semi competent at using complex configuration options (or even coding!) just to use their software successfully!

If they were developing a programmers tool, such as an IDE, that approach "might" be more reasonable. However, when their software targets B2C or B2B users, this is definitely a fundamental mistake.The code, brilliant as it may be, should be black box and hidden from the end user at all times. It should absolutely never compete for, seek, or steal any of the user's attention. Doing so cannibalizes user value! Configuration options should be minimized or eliminated completely. Features should be limited to those that provide the most value for a typical user, running on default options.

In the end, successfully developing a core feature set that real users love is far more challenging to achieve than simply jamming in more and more features and options without an end in sight. Coders who create bloatware will find themselves:

- participating in stand up meetings where words like "refactoring" are playing on loop, or
- standing by defenselessly as more streamlined competitors propel themselves right into the heart of their customer list!

As software developers, we must save the codability for power users, and we must insist on a usability focus for our core users. The Viral Age team will always battle for usability over bloat!

So please don't present your users with the controls to a 747 when all they want to do is make a pot of coffee!


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