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June 12, 2003

User vs Technology Driven Development

Got into a discussion today with a co-worker who heads up the user support for our project (he's got a good set of technical skills). Realized during our discussion that on many of our projects, what I thought was being "user" driven was just on the surface and not penetrating much further than the initial idea.

We don't necessarily plan to be development driven, for the most part we keep our ears open to suggestions, even do some usability studies from time to time. I think we sometimes believe that is good enough and after getting some initial thoughts on the functionality we turn it over to the developer and the user is brought back in to see the final product when it's done (or in final revisions).

We really need to focus on having the end user and user-support people involved to a greater extent, so that when the developer gets involved there are very little functionality decisions to be made. Right now the developer is handed an idea like "let users upload images" with very little additional information. The developer is then responsible to make decisions about how and what the user will do with the system, having no idea what the user really needs. In addition, the programmer is close to technology so the solution frequently comes out reeking of tech know-how and requires numerous revisions just to make the interface friendly, at which point the tool may still not do exactly what is needed.

It sounds obvious writing this all out, but is amazing how the focus gets lost when racing against a deadline or trying to juggle many projects.

Posted by mike at June 12, 2003 1:10 PM