Marty Landman wrote:

My wife is a fine pianist and also an accountant. And she is very
skilled at using her computer at work. Yet she still doesn't get the
difference between programs and data - she'll ask me in the context of
our home office where a file is and I'll ask her where she saved it and
invariably the answer is "quickbooks" or "word". As a developer I'm very
concerned with usability and this has been a red light for me. It
underlines the fact that I have no clue how most of my users actually
experience the software I write.
An excellent point Marty! I do believe that there are a lot of people
who can learn to "program" to some degree. But quality of code aside, do
you think these people are going to design the best interfaces? Or for
that matter do you think programmers always create good interfaces? ;-)
(referring to myself here). Or would these neophytes actually be good
interface designers because they were users for most of their lives?

Perhaps one thing we as developers can do to distinguish ourselves from
the masses is to learn more about Human Computer Interaction (HCI aka.
interface design/usability). Having written many an interface myself
over the last 8 years, I know without a doubt that I have a long way to
go to fully understanding the "best" way to layout & design an _end
user_ interface. My knowledge has vastly improved over time, but there
is still much to be learned. Does anyone have usability recommendations
they would like to share?

It's a challenge to put myself in the users shoes and ask myself "So how
would I go about doing this task?" That's why I think it's important to
actually talk w/ the end users about how they do their day-to-day jobs.
For instance, over the last 18 months I've been working on an in-house
project at work. We have a lot of functionality written now. But there
are so many little things we're going to be doing in the near future
that will make the users' lives so much easier and less error prone.
We've learned this by sitting down w/ the users and asking them point
blank what bugs them about the system. Unfortunately so many people
don't even do this much...

IMHO, usability experience is a definite step forward to making your
resume stand out from the others.

Drew Taylor * Web development & consulting
Email: drew@drewtaylor.com * Site implementation & hosting
Web : www.drewtaylor.com * perl/mod_perl/DBI/mysql/postgres

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