To Develop a Good Design, You Must Begin by Caring About People

“An all-encompassing design culture and strategy in every aspect of your thinking is a more tangible representation of your identity than any clever mission statement or advertisement. And if your design sucks, it simply means you don’t care about people.” — Joshua Blankenship (italics mine)

Josh very succinctly states in his blog what I’ve been gradually discovering over time as a developer. He notes that “it isn’t easy” and quotes Tom Peters as saying it’s “damned hard work,” but he doesn’t go into specifics about how to establish and develop a culture centered on good design.

I think my recent entry on the topic explains in detail how to pull this off– even though I couldn’t put into words what the ultimate objective really was.  However, I think the real payoff will come only if you begin to include the programmers and code maintainers among those that you take time to invest in and care about.  Too many IT managers fail to realize that sacrificing the needs of the coders will have a direct impact on the experience of the end users.  The very fact that most development jobs are mere maintenance work on poorly architected systems is a testament to the fact that we value neither the coder or the user.

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2 Responses to “To Develop a Good Design, You Must Begin by Caring About People”

  1. Rakesh Malik Says:

    Well said — I’m constantly astonished at how many developers build systems that are so insanely complex that adding things like a new HTML page with some server-side functionality requires creating and/or editing over a dozen files scattered all over the project.

    And then I realize that a lot of the developers who do that have never seen anything else, and have no intention of ever maintaining the system that they’re slapping together, so they really don’t care one way or another about the person who’s going to inherit it, or the users who will see it taking longer and longer to get new features and bug fixes and that sort of thing.

  2. Mark Miller Says:

    @Rakesh:

    This is not just a web development problem. It’s been a problem in the business application industry, too. I used to see it with VC++/MFC code. Though code organization was so-so, there was no documentation to explain what the code did. Sometimes they set up global variables (a big no, no!). Maybe it’s worse in the web field, but the same mentality applies.

    There aren’t too many developers who care about the future, but a significant part of it is their bosses don’t care about it either. The attitude that’s promoted is “Just get the machine to do something besides sit idle. I don’t care how you do it.” They get nervous with the more conscientious developers because they’re more deliberative and take their time to try to get it done right. In their mind that takes time and money. Of course they or the customer pays for it later in higher maintenance costs, but they seem to accept that as just the cost of doing business. They don’t really notice it. The end users, like you say, probably do notice it. They feel the pain of using a system that’s not designed with their needs in mind, but they don’t pay the developers’ bills.

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