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Usability’s Dirty Secret

Being a user interface programmer, let me say that your worst enemy, after the marketing department, the accounting department, the legal department, middle management, the CEO, the CFO, your compiler vendor, your tool vendors, the people who write the libraries you’re using and your end-users…

…is the user interaction designer.

Often escapees from the career ghettos of art school or desktop publishing, these baskers-in-reflected-high-tech glory somehow managed to create a whole damned usability industry whose alleged purpose is to make computers easier to use but whose real purpose is to save them from a lifelong career of waiting tables. Not smart enough to be programmers, not dumb enough to be safely relegated to tasks like super-sizing your fries, these anal rententives are, as my buddy George puts it, “little dictators — SimCity-sized tyrants — intent on foisting their New Orthodoxy on everyone.”

Oh, relax. I’m just kidding.

But geez, they are annoying, pendantic, self-righteous creatures that absolutely refuse to shut up. May you never be seated next to one on a trans-Pacific flight.

Anyhow, Joel Spolsky, who runs Fog Creek Software, has a great weblog called Joel on Software and a book called User Interface Design for Programmers. Evan Williams (Mr. Blogger) found this quote and put it in his blog. It’s the dirty secret that the usability gurus don’t want you to know, and it’s so worthy of repetition that I am doing the same:

Usability is not everything. If usability engineers designed a nightclub, it would be clean, quiet, brightly lit, with lots of places to sit down, plenty of bartenders, menus written in 18-point sans-serif, and easy-to-find bathrooms. But nobody would be there. They would all be down the street at Coyote Ugly pouring beer on each other.

I’m making it into a T-shirt and wearing it to an HCI conference someday.

Recommended Reading

Some web pages by some usability gurus:

Of course, this poison posting would not be complete without this little Web page called Our little enemies, the lusers. Enjoy!

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