Dr. C. Scott Ananian (cananian) wrote,
Dr. C. Scott Ananian
cananian

Taste, user experience, and engineering

A recent article on Nokia's internal culture contained this interesting quote:

Designers are also, by training and predilection, inclined to design for the usual, where engineers are taught a kind of rigor that compels them to account for, and overweight, low-probability events.

This does seem to me to often be a fundamental problem in not only interaction and UI design, but also internal programming APIs and interfaces. Good engineering is a clever balance; as Larry Wall has said: "Easy things should be easy, and hard things should be possible." An engineering mindset often fixates on the hard things (the "interesting part of the problem"!) and tries to make the hard things easy (or easier), at the risk of making the easy things hard. The end result is failure.

Truly elegant engineering involves finding a view of the problem where the hard parts of the problem disappear. We're not always fortunate enough to find that solution. In falling back to a practical/possible solution, we must be careful to ensure that we keep the easy things easy — it's fine if the hard things are difficult, so long as they are possible. Effort spent making the hard things easier is wasted if it makes the easy things harder. The goal is not a uniform mediocrity of design.

Tags: programming
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