Choices = Headaches

The fact that you have to choose between nine different ways of turning off your computer every time just on the Start menu, not to mention the choice of hitting the physical on/off button or closing the laptop lid, produces just a little bit of unhappiness every time. – Joel Spolsky. More Joel on Software: Further Thoughts on Diverse and Occasionally Related Matters That Will Prove of Interest to Software Developers, Designers, and Managers, and to Those Who, Whether by Good Fortune or Ill Luck, Work with Them in Some Capacity (p. 100). Kindle Edition.

Applying a Thinking Fast & Slow concept, I wonder if Loss Aversion plays a role here. If you have to make a choice, then you wonder if you didn’t make the best one. Therefore don’t you feel a “loss” at possibly making a bad choice? If so, it would be doubly true for computer novices who understand enough to recognize the options, but can’t evaluate them. I think this is past Microsoft Vista telling you that you’re stupid – instead they’re trying to prove it.

No wonder Vista failed in the marketplace.

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The one where Joel does Glenngary Glen Ross…

“To make your life really easy, and to underscore just how completely self-serving this whole essay is, my company, Fog Creek Software, has summer internships in software development that look great on resumes. “You will most likely learn more about software coding, development, and business with Fog Creek Software than any other internship out there,” says Ben, one of the interns from last summer, and not entirely because I sent a goon out to his dorm room to get him to say that. The application deadline is February 1. Get on it.” — Joel Spolsky. More Joel on Software: Further Thoughts on Diverse and Occasionally Related Matters That Will Prove of Interest to Software Developers, Designers, and Managers, and to Those Who, Whether by Good Fortune or Ill Luck, Work with Them in Some Capacity (Kindle Locations 952-955). Kindle Edition.

“To Make your life really easy,” – Attention

“Fog Creek Software, has summer internships in software development that look great on resumes.” – Interest

“”You will most likely learn more about software coding, development, and business with Fog Creek Software than any other internship out there,” says Ben…” – Social Proof (Neil Strauss would be proud.)

Also note “because Ben” – who the hell is Ben? Doesn’t matter. What matters is the word because. All the rest of the sentence needs to do (in this context) is be even remotely believable. In this case, it is, because Ben was a Frog Creek Intern but from a purely psychologically perspective it could have been completely nonsense and it still would have compelled the reader to from that sentence to the next – the most important one in the paragraph:

“The application deadline is February 1.” – Decision

“Get on it.” – Action

Always Be Closing.

“Are they all here?”
“All but one.”
“Well I’m going anyway.”

Great Software, talk by Joel Spolsky

An oldie from 2006:

“The Formula:

  • Make People Happy
  • Think About Emotions
  • Obsess over Aesthetics

Or: Happy Comfortable, People” – Joel Spolsky

His core point, just at the end, got cut-off by bad audio, so I’ll take a crack at it.

Misattribution. Namely the act of feeling or desiring something for reasons other than the ones you believe are causing you to feel this way.

For the purposes of software, if your program basically works, nailing making people happy (by giving them a sense of control), making people comfortable and by making things beautiful, your app will be perceived as great – even if there are other apps which have more features.

I’ve seen this in real life directly. People like our app, even though there are other apps which have more features, because they like how it feels. They like how it uses words that they know. They like how it looks.

You’d be amazed how much of a push getting these things right is.

You’ll be amazed how damn much work it is.

Coyote Ugly Saloon pouring beer on each other.

Coyote Ugly Saloon pouring beer on each other.

Jakob Nielsen says that Flash is “99% bad.”

“You get the feeling that if Mr Nielsen designed a singles bar, it would be well lit, clean, with giant menus printed in Arial 14 point, and you’d never have to wait to get a drink. But nobody would go there, they would all be at Coyote Ugly Saloon pouring beer on each other.” – Joel Spolsky

Hilarious!

The Process of Designing a Product

The Process of Designing a Product

“In the days of Excel 1.0 through 4.0, most people at Microsoft thought that the most common user activity was doing financial what-ifscenarios… we only had to watch about five customers using the product before we realized that an enormous number of people just use Excel to keep lists.” – Joel Spolsky

If the Excel team can be this wrong, there’s no way on Earth you could be better. And by you I mean me. That snarky, overly cocky, pain in the ass version of me that I turn into when I fall in love with a design.

/smack.

“Good UI sells software, but it also makes people happy, because people are happy when they accomplish the task they wanted to accomplish.” – Joel Spolsky

Why is this so rare? Why is this not always the goal? Why is this so often resisted by the stakeholders?

To summarize, designing good software takes about six steps:

  1. Invent some users
  2. Figure out the important activities
  3. Figure out the user model — how the user will expect to accomplish those activities
  4. Sketch out the first draft of the design
  5. Iterate over your design again and again, making it easier and easier until it’s well within the capabilities of your imaginary users
  6. Watch real humans trying to use your software” – Joel Spolsky

Don’t forget to include at least one naive user in step #1. If you don’t do that step #5 won’t work. Treat #6 as desert and look forward to it with anticipation.

Three Wrong Ideas From Computer Science

Three Wrong Ideas From Computer Science

“the next time someone tries to sell you a programming product that lets you access network resources the same was as you access local resources, run full speed in the opposite direction.” – Joel Spolsky

This doesn’t hold up in the era of Dropbox. At least not as I conceptually think of it.

Interestingly, most of the points from this post don’t hold up IMO.

Designing for People Who Have Better Things To Do With Their Lives, Part Three

Designing for People Who Have Better Things To Do With Their Lives, Part Three

“whenever you “lower the bar” by even a small amount, making your program, say, 10% easier to use, you dramatically increase the number of people who can use it, say, by 50%.” – Joel Spolsky

I’ve seen this happen time and time again. It flat out explains the entire touch-centric UI shift that we’ve just undergone.

“One good way to evaluate the usability of a program or dialog you’ve never seen before is to act a little stupid.” – Joel Spolsky

People HATE me when I do this. Haters gonna hate.

“If the UI can’t withstand your acting generally immature and stupid, it could use some work.” – Joel Spolsky

Love it.