Understanding Designers

Posted filed underDesign, Internet, Reference.

Rands in Response has a wonderful post about software engineers and people who just want to mail a picture of their cat. Very eductional for everyone who has to work with designers every once in a while and is still wondering what makes these people tick.

Excerpt: A Fundamental Tension

To understand the historic tension between the designer and the engineer, you need to go back to when software became mainstream, and in my mind that was with the arrival of the Internet. Software had been around and making piles of money long before Netscape, but it became a worldwide phenomenal when anyone, anywhere could mail anyone else a picture of their cat.

The arrival of everyone (and their cats) presented a challenge to these early software development teams. These teams were used to working with early adopters and their particular needs. See, early adopters are willing to put up with a lot of crap — it’s part of the deal we have with them. “You get to play with the latest and greatest, but it may explode at any point.” Early adopters are cool with these explosions because early adoption makes them feel, well, cool.

When everyone arrived, everyone didn’t want explosions — they just wanted it to work. Engineers hear “just works” as “they want fewer explosions”, but that’s not what everyone wanted. They wanted to send a picture of their cat in the simplest way possible. They didn’t care about JavaScript, security, frames or plugins; they just wanted to mail a picture of their goddamned cat without the application exploding.

Design results in the tangible translation between engineering thought: “fewer explosions” and user thought: “reliable, one-click cat photo mailing”. Good design manages to both showcase the best of engineering efforts while simultaneously hiding them from the user.”

Read on at Rands in Response