Now This Log

Sunday, 17 February 2002 : "iceberg secret"

Joel Spolsky says some useful things about making web-based systems for paying clients:

The Iceberg Secret, Revealed [Joel on Software]
...most software is like [an iceberg] -- there's a pretty user interface that takes about 10% of the work, and then 90% of the programming work is under the covers. ... That's not the secret. The secret is that People Who Aren't Programmers Do Not Understand This.

Corollary: If you show a nonprogrammer a screen which has a user interface that is 90% worse, they will think that the program is 90% worse.

Corollary: If you show a nonprogrammer a screen which has a user interface which is 100% beautiful, they will think the program is almost done.

Understand that any demos you do in a darkened room with a projector are going to be all about pixels. If you can, build your UI in such a way that unfinished parts look unfinished.
The ensuing discussion has plenty of gems too:
[Jeff Porten] Whenever possible, GET YOUR CUSTOMERS USING YOUR SOFTWARE WHEN THE FEATURE SET IS SMALL. ... Make them wait until it's 100% done, and they'll be annoyed by the wait, and then take for granted everything you've done. But put them live when you're at 30%, and every step of the way to 100% will seem miraculous.

[Brian Curtis] ...you know as well as I do that thereís a lot more to UI design than just "prettying up the pixels." ... What makes you think the design is something you can fix up in a day? ... coming up with a good, intuitive, USABLE interface design involves a lot more work and effort than just tossing some pretty pixels on the screen.

[Ted Boren] ...on another level customers know EXACTLY what they want. They want their work to get accomplished and they know their work far better than you or I. It would be a fatal mistake to assume that you have little to learn from customers just because you canít trust what they say about design & technology.
Good stuff.

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