Very interesting presentation by Jason Fried of 37Signals on software design.
He begins by talking about how software is different from the physical world and outlines the following concepts:
Nice things about software development.
- Low cost to change.
- No physical constraints.
- Can be created anywhere, no location dependency.
But a significant disadvantage that he describes is that you don’t have the same type of feedback loop as physical objects do. This means that bad design in the physical world is often “obvious” and bad design in the software world may not be quite as obvious.
He discusses the notion that good design is as much about making the right decision about what gets left out as what gets put in and describes the process as being a good Software Curator.
You must make your software a museum of careful decisions. You must make it a collection and not a warehouse.
He stresses the notion that you need to remember that you’re building for a group of users and not just a small (but vocal) minority.
“Bloat” is identified as a condition that once reached is irreversible and that you are better off starting over with a new product.
Some of what he is referring to has also been called The Second System Effect first coined by Mr. Brooks.
Next he mentions is the need to translate a customer’s request from what they are literally saying into what they are trying to say or intending to say.
I love the part in the Q&A that follows the presentation where he describes how it is easy to request a feature but hard to actually build things and that you should tell people who aren’t happy with your decision to not include a feature to try to build it themselves. I absolutely agree with his argument about the need to attach costs to requests.
So in order to be successful he argues that you may need to say “no” more frequently than you say “yes”.
Steve Jobs is mentioned as the ultimate curator in the industry today.
The philosophy expressed in this talk has a great deal in common with John Gruber’s Auteur Theory of Design a.k.a. Why Bad Taste Rules in Business talk. Mr Gruber’s talk is recommended viewing for anyone interested in this topic.
Note: Found at Trev’s Blog.