Wednesday, May 14, 2003

The Invisible User

A lot has been written on the importance of user-centric design, and considering the user interface as a core element of software design, rather than as a last-minute, after-the-fact process. I'm not an expert in this field, so I can't really add to it, but I'll just make a few observations.

First, note that the Turing machine model has no user; it is a self-contained entity reading and writing to a tape. The entire concept of interaction, perhaps key to models of computation beyond the Turing machine, is missing from the classic conception. This may be at the root of the design philosophy that exiles users to the outside of software, looking in.

Unfortunately, it gets even worse. Even today, software conferences are often filled with an ugly undertone of contempt for the user. While jokes of "luser" seem to be thankfully dated now, the attitude the produced them is still with us. Is it any wonder the software industry produces such crap?