Sunday, October 10, 2010

Visually Designed Software

As I continue to look around, work and consult for various companies, I have begun to realize that the visual
element of software design in perhaps more important than functionality. Humans are visual beings, we like
nice furniture, nice buildings and beautiful people. The same is true of software.

The recent success of the iPhone is an example, Apple makes attractive devices that have attractive user
interfaces. This I believe is the key to their success. Years ago, we all put up with Microsoft, not because their
software was robust, efficient or reliable but because they had the best user interface by far. As mentioned
in a previous article, Linux is now maturing into a desktop operating system that can finally compete with Microsoft, this is mainly because the user interface is attractive. The new Gnome and KDE windowing user interfaces are easy to use and attractive.

The same can also be said for web development. I believe it is more important to have the user interface
looking excellent, before working on the functionality. Some may argue, that simple command line tools are not
attractive yet are used extensively, this is true. the users of such tools, like the interface and are accustomed
to it. It is textual, too the point and uncluttered. Again, it is a particular type of interface, non-graphical however
with its own attraction and design.

I believe that many companies delivering business solutions (via bespoke software or web services), often
ignore this fundamental design principle. People simply get bored and annoyed by ugly interfaces !
Getting the design (visual) right is fundamental, of course then comes the functionality ....

For those interested in some cool visualization ideas, check out IBM's Many Eyes http://manyeyes.alphaworks.ibm.com/manyeyes/

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