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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Who are windows for?

Not Windows, but actual physical windows. I ask because our dev staff is changing rooms at work, and once again the new room has inadequate windows, in my opinion. The problem is that it seems the windows in both our old room and new room were designed and placed by the architects based on their outside appearance, rather than their inside utility.

That caused me to think about some of our software development, and how we've really been focused on the parts that our users don't use. It seemed strange at first to think about how little of our software is used by our users, but now that I've gotten comfortable with the idea, it seems obvious. Software is like an iceberg: probably 90% of the code is below the surface. The end result is that when a product is 93% finished, and the 7% remaining is UI code, then to users it appears that the product is 70% unfinished.

That was driven home by a podcast interview I heard today with Jason Fried from 37 Signals (Inside the Net) in which he talked about their development methodology. Contrary to software development convention, they always start with the UI first, then build the backpane to support those features.

That seems like a really good approach for a lot of systems, especially those that are primarily aimed at end users using a GUI. It forces you to think more about -- and more like! -- your users, and it helps make sure you put the windows in the right places.

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