Sunday, January 29, 2006

Joel Spolksy's design manifesto

Joel Spolsky, blog and software development pioneer, has an excellant series of articles on Design Basics and Web Design. I'm calling it a manifesto. He speaks of the contradictory requirements imposed on design.

"Great Design: what is design?"

A very funny explanation of how a garbage can has to be contradictory things. Small (so pedestrians can walk past it) AND large (to fit plenty of garbage in). He goes on to say it has to be light (so garbage collectors can lift it) AND heavy (so the wind won't blow it away)...and more contradictions.

Contradictions call for compromise. Compromise calls for wisdom in knowing what is flexible and what cannot be changed. And so on.

This series of essays comes just as I am doing some "Spring Cleaning" at Vaspers the Grate. I'm streamlining. Deleting photos and functions that are not all that vital to my main message of Web Usability and Blogology: Best Practices, Ethics, Effective Blogging.

Joel is a good blog writer. I joyfully read every word of his blog post, without fuzzing out a single time. I paid attention, and it was a fun read. It was exactly what I needed.

For example...


Every design decision involves tradeoffs, whether it's finding space for all your icons on the toolbar, picking the optimal balance of font size and information density, or deciding how best to use the limited space for buttons on a cellphone.

Bell System TelephoneEvery new feature is a tradeoff, between the people who could really use such a feature and the people who are just going to get overwhelmed by all the options.

The reason 1950s-era telephones were so much easier to use than modern office phones is that they just didn't do much. Without voicemail, conference calling, three-way calling, and Java games, all you need is a way to dial numbers and hang up on the man claiming to be selling police benevolence.

By which I mean to say: even if you think your new feature is all good and can't hurt because "people who don't care can just ignore it," you're forgetting that the people who allegedly don't care are still forced to look at your feature and figure out if they need it.


Be sure to visit Joel Spolsky's blog and read the entire article. It made my day.

[signed] steven edward streight aka vaspers the grate

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