Building software people love involves learning to read minds – or at least learning to think like your users. In the world of free, web-based software, there will always be 10 versions of every application: 10 different to-do lists, 10 different dictionaries, 10 different bookmark organizers. It’s not enough to meet users’ expectations about features; you’ve also got to delight them if you want to win market share. If you don’t think through every interaction and use case, you’re probably annoying the hell out of people without even knowing it.
That’s why it’s important to actually watch users in action with your application. It’s a maxim in user experience design circles that you, the programmer, are not the user. Sure, you should eat your own dog food, but remember that the experience of using software that you wrote – and whose every shortcoming and compromise you understand from the inside – isn’t the same as chancing upon that software in the wild and giving it a shot. Look at your software through the fresh eyes of users who didn’t write a single line of the code. That’s when you’ll actually learn what you’ve created and how to improve it.
… all of which proselytizing serves only to introduce one rant and one rave about free software I use every day. Neither of these are web applications, but both of them are tied directly to the ‘net.Read more »