The Design of Software (CLOSED)

A public forum for discussing the design of software, from the user interface to the code architecture. Now closed.

The "Design of Software" discussion group has been merged with the main Joel on Software discussion group.

The archives will remain online indefinitely.

RE: Introduction to Great Design (First Draft)

I hate my cell phone. It is always taking pictures of the inside of my pocket (when it's folded, shouldn't the buttons not be enabled???). I can never find the features it claims are available to me, I can never reliably turn off the ringer and on the vibrator, and it does not allow me to customize the line of text at the top of the window, even when I follow the procedures in the book exactly.

The iPod may be a great device, but their PC-iPod interface (iTunes) is poorly designed. Everything these days fits into the window/folder/file metaphor, except iTunes. If you set options wrong, songs disappear from the iPod. And you can't just drag the music files from a folder on the PC to the device.
Jon Peltier Send private email
Thursday, January 26, 2006
The cell phone example is a great would be the ever increasing number of features being built into the key fobs of modern cars. 

How many times have you accidentally activated the panic alarm when you meant to open the trunk? ...only to have the honking and flashing lights draw everyone's attention to your blunder so publicly.

Am looking forward to this series...and interested to see what new perspectives/approaches can be uncovered to compliment or contrast Alan Cooper's "The Inmates Are Running the Asylum".

No I don't receive any royalties from Cooper...I just think it's a good reference on this topic. :)
Thursday, January 26, 2006
Jon, if you read Cooper's About Face 2, one of the best UI books around, you'll see that he promotes a new world in which there are no files or folders. Apple's iLife suite, including iTunes, follow this UI metaphor.
Art Wilkins
Thursday, January 26, 2006
(Or attempt to - as time goes by it looks like they are reimplementing the finder inside each application.)
Art Wilkins
Thursday, January 26, 2006
I'm also a big fan of Cooper.  I read his "About Face: The Essentials of User Interface Design" 10 years ago and immediately went out and bought copies for each member of my development team.

A key point in Cooper's book is the need to understand the end-user's mental model of what he or she is attempting to accomplish.  All too often interface designers are programmers who can only think like other programmers.

If you can't think like end-users, you shouldn't be designing products for them.
Mike Wyman Send private email
Thursday, January 26, 2006
Boy, did the cell phone story ring true (so to speak :-).

My cell phone (,2803,zoom:1,00.html ), also has incomprehensible icons for the "dial" and "hang-up" functions.  It wasn't until my wife was attempting to use my phone that I found out they were two different colors! I'm color blind - which should send a message to interface designers on whom they should select for testing interfaces. 

My wife was further confused by the fact that the corresponding buttons on her phone are in the exact opposite location from mine.
Mike Wyman Send private email
Thursday, January 26, 2006
BTW, re the Inmates book, it seems to me that a bunch of Cooper's schpiel is to be anti-engineer, claiming they are all stupido bricklayers who don't know how to design and should just clam up and do as they are told by experts at UI like himself. However, I have never seen a sisngle usable piece of software he has designed.
Art Wilkins
Thursday, January 26, 2006
Quote from Joel's second article:

"The only goal that usually doesn't conflict is the requirement that whatever you design be really, really cheap."

I would venture to say the exact opposite.  This goal usually conflicts with every other goal.
John Verbil Send private email
Thursday, January 26, 2006
"It has to be really big. People throw away a lot of trash throughout the day and at a busy intersection if you don't make it big enough, it overflows and garbage goes everywhere. When that happens, one of the little six-pack plastic ringy-dingies will get in the ocean, and a cute little birdy will get ensnared in it, and choke to death. YOU DON'T WANT TO KILL BIRDIES, DO YOU?"

    If birdies are in the ocean, they are already in trouble.  Think of the cute seals instead.

"Oh, also, it needs to be pretty small, because otherwise it's going to take up room on the sidewalk, forcing the pedestrians to squeeze past each other, which, possibly, when the Effete Yuppie Listening to His iPod gets distracted by a really funny joke on the Ricky Gervais podcast and accidentally brushes against the Strangely Haunted Vietnam-Era Veteran, can result in an altercation of historic proportions."

    "historic"?  Evil pun.

    Great article.


Gene Wirchenko

Insert beautiful sig here.
Gene Wirchenko Send private email
Thursday, January 26, 2006
Message For Joel

Great article with hard-hitting word pictures, as usual.  The only thing that interrupted my delightful reading experience was the phrase "You think I know how to solve the Motorola RAZR phone power-switch button?"  If it were me, I would edit that, but you may have some esoteric reason for phrasing it that way.

Thank You For Your Amazing Articles Delivered Right To Our Inbox.
Central Cal Girl Send private email
Thursday, January 26, 2006

"Jon, if you read Cooper's About Face 2, one of the best UI books around, you'll see that he promotes a new world in which there are no files or folders. Apple's iLife suite, including iTunes, follow this UI metaphor."

The issue is not specifically the files and folders, although that's what people are used to. It's the difficulty of simply copying something (a music file) from one bucket (a folder on the HD) to another (the music player). iTunes has this Library interface concept, which I guess is fine, except that you have to check the files you want to be on the device (even if you already managed to get them there), then find some command a couple clicks away to update the iPod and Library, and then find out that you'd forgotten to check one of the songs, so it was removed. And the kids have to split their time between two computers, so just try to keep a library updated across both. I didn't get it, and my kids didn't get it.
Jon Peltier Send private email
Friday, January 27, 2006

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