Beauty vs. Usability - a Tale of Two Masters
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We as passionate developers (or managers, CTO’s, help desk jockeys…etc) have one thing in common, we are attracted like moths to a flame towards the latest and greatest. If something new is coming out we are all talking about it, reading up on it, we could probably tell you five things it lacks before it’s even released. That’s one of the main reasons we are in this, all the cool sh*t we get to play with. This trait comes with a dangerous side effect, which is getting lost in the bright flashy lights of new technology and forgetting what we are here to do in the first place: solve problems and make the user experience more pleasing.
So, how do we avoid this issue? What are some questions we can ask ourselves that will help us choose a good advancement over one that will spin our wheels but not benefit the application. Well, let’s start at the part where you find something exciting. The first thing you need to think of is your feature debt, what does it look like? How does adding this element to your existing application help to lower that debt? Will it save you time that you can use for development? If so, how much time? Will it eliminate some of that debt? Really? Will it, or are you just saying that so you can feel better about playing with it?
Another great way to tell if your investment is worth taking is to convince your end users or project owners that it is. Non intar-people don’t want to hear about refactoring, or code integrity, or WPF. They want to see bright shiny flashy things that look cool and make their lives easier. Convincing them that they need something they’ve never heard of and don’t care about will be a great barometer to see if this change is worth making.
Someone called the solution this quandary an Aristotelian Mean the other day. I had to look that up, but it basically means a perfect balance between two extremes, which is applicable only if you can attain it. Perfect code is beautiful, but if we keep going back and second guessing ourselves we aren’t always helping our users. All my advice is well and good, but while I have the knowledge I lack the experience of finding this Golden Mean between these development poles. I’m sure I’ll learn on my way, but if anyone has any more suggestions, I’d love to hear them.
Published at DZone with permission of Sara Chipps, DZone MVB. See the original article here.
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