Thoughts on software and life.

Thursday January 22

programmers are stupid

You hear a lot of people talking about "user-centered design", but still, it seems to be really slow to catch on in most development circles. I think the one of the fundamental problems here is that too many programmers absolutely loathe the people who use their software. It's not uncommon to hear a programmer refer to the user as "stupid". This hatred is probably the biggest obstacle to creating usable software, because in order to do so, we need to construct our user interfaces to match the way the user thinks. Instead, programmers create UI that is structured to match the way the underlying code is structured. For most of us, this is the natural way to do things, because our mental model is congruent to the code model. We find it difficult to change, because we love the code model, and we deride the user's mental model as being idiotic.

The first step to recovery is to understand that user's aren't stupid; they just simply are't programmers. Users are all smart and knowledgeable in their own way. They aren't all "Grandmas" - they are doctors and lawyers and accountants, who are struggling to use the computer because programmers are too "stupid" to understand law and medicine and accounting.

I myself have been "stupid" in this way for many many years, but I am trying to change.

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