Coming from a working background unrelated to technology, there are some things I’ve learned – about users and developers – that I didn’t realise I knew until I started writing this.

  1. When developing a solution – nobody is as interested in the inner workings of it as you are. I’m sorry, it’s just a fact. Users assume it works – otherwise you wouldn’t give it to them to use, right? But they don’t care how it works.
  2. Despite the old saying – “garbage in, garbage out”, sometimes it *is* the system’s fault and not the user. Yup, I said it. Our job, as technology nerds and product developers, is to make sure that this isn’t the case too often. GIGO needs to start at the very beginning, before you write even one line of code.
  3.  Newer and fancier is not necessarily better, or even required. But simpler – that’s always good.
  4. What seems intuitive to you might not be the case for everyone else. Take a step (or six) back and let someone else have a look. They’ll tell you immediately (disconcertingly so) what you’ve missed.
  5. Our users just want something that make their lives easier. If a technology solution is making more work for them – whether that means weeks of training, rearranging their processes to “fit the system” or even extra steps added into their process to make this new solution work – well, then it’s no solution at all, is it?
  6. How many apps or programs have you tried and then abandoned because they’ve become a drag to use? I’ve lost count.
  7. The wow-factor has less to do with the look and feel of a product than with the instant realisation of the difference this solution can make to their lives. They might think they want it in pink candy stripes, but actually what they’re after is that lightbulb *PING* – when they see the shape of their days changing.
  8. William Faulkner first said it about editing, but I prefer the Stephen King version: “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” Even more true when you’re an egocentric software developer and not a scribbler. The bits of code and product that you LOVE are not necessarily wanted or needed forever. Though it will break your heart to dump that beautiful little dialog box that everyone else hates, if it makes the product better – kill those darlings.
  9. Users want fast. There’s no getting around it, it’s not a debate. If you have time to switch to another browser tab while you wait, it’s probably too slow.
  10. If you want me to explain why we did it this way, I will, really – I’d love to! But do be prepared for a level of detail that will make a normal human’s ears bleed. Are you really sure you want to go there?
  11. Just try and switch it off and on again. Yes, I know. Seriously though, just do it.
  12. Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong in a demo.
October 3, 2015 No Comments Tracy Engelbrecht Technology , , ,