Friday, November 7, 2014

The importance of good design

I uncovered an interesting article from CIO Magazine, from back in June this year. Harold Hambrose writes in "A New Dawn for System Design" about an important fact about appealing to end users:
"Technology outside the enterprise is strikingly different because people want to use it. They aren’t trained to use it. No one spends a dime on change management. People take one look at the stuff, understand how it is relevant to their world, buy it and never look back (at least until something better comes along). The contrast between these tools and the typical enterprise system couldn’t be starker."
Hambrose makes the point that to design good software for the enterprise, we need to shift "enterprise" development to think more like "commodity" development. He says designs must be "human-centered (not process-centered)." And in doing so, Hambrose is essentially extolling the importance of good usability, and strong user experience.
Agile or rapid methods might be great for fast, iterative software development, but invite a designer into the exercise and you’ll learn how the design process allows for much more effective exploration and discovery. This isn’t the “design thinking” fad. This is “design doing” — technologists, business analysts, designers, researchers, executives and rank-and-file staffers defining possibilities together. They’re focused equally on the people that we need to perform, the technology we can deliver, and the business that must be served.
Right there, Hambrose discusses a user-focused approaching, designing the system for what users need to do, rather than what you want them to do, or how you want them to do it. By extension, Hambrose advocates designing every in-house corporate IT system as though it were a commodity: do people want to use your product? Can they use your product to do the things that they need to do?

Without using the word, Hambrose argues that all enterprise IT should have good usability, that they must focus on the user needs first. Whether you are a designer in industry or for an open source software project, the essential needs are the same: real people need to use your software to accomplish real tasks.

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