Strong opinions, weakly held

Against carping

Andre Torrez takes issue with the excessive carping about products we see on Twitter and in other outlets:

I think making the right choices when you face them is the best way to say how things should be done. Having empathy for people doing what you are doing is as important as having empathy for your own users.

Path dependence is as operative in software development as it is anywhere else. Most developers aren’t doing things that seem stupid or wrong because they themselves are stupid, but rather because decisions previously made reduce the options that are available to them.

Nearly every developer I know would love to work with better designers and spend more time on design. They’d like to do continuous deployment, spend time writing test suites for their code, do code reviews, and use the latest and greatest tools to get their work done. And yet they are stuck using antiquated tools and processes because that’s what their boss understands, or because their project has been around awhile and it’s too difficult to make time to migrate, or because it’s hard to reach consensus about change on their team.

To put it more simply, things rarely suck because nobody has come along and told them that they’re not good.


  1. A lot of software sucks because the authors simply don’t care about usability. From the credit card form that specifies “do not enter spaces or dashes” to the website that emails you your plane text password to the computer game that requires 8 button presses to start playing to the music management app that blocks the UI for minutes at a time manipulating a database, a lot of software is just lazy, bad, thoughtless design. The only response is to call attention to it.

  2. That’s a fair counterpoint I think. I generally vote with my feet — if I’m not happy with the user experience of an application or Web site, I generally drop it as soon as I find a suitable replacement.

  3. Making good stuff (and this includes making software more usable) generally takes more time and/or skill and/or materials which means it takes more money, which means you have to charge customers more. Most customers don’t want to pay more even if the product is inferior.

    This is true of software, furniture, clothes, cars and a lot of other things.

  4. Whoops, that line should have said:

    “Most customers don’t want to pay more even if the product is superior.”

  5. “Most customers don’t want to pay more even if the product is superior.”

    And yet, Apple has shown that not to be true, given the success of the iPod, iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, all of which are beautifully designed devices that are not cheap. (remember when the iPhone cost $500 with a 2 year contract, and the lines went around the block?)

    And other companies have figured it out as well e.g. Dyson vacuum cleaners (I know a school teacher that owns the $500 device).

  6. Sherif, I agree that Apple and Dyson have been successful, but they are in the minority – many companies have been unable to convince consumers that their products are superior and worth the extra cost.

  7. Of course the question any company has to ask itself is whether it can be a profitable business competing on quality. You don’t necessarily need most customers.

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