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Should The Same Person Design AND Write The Code For Your Web Application?


In his article "Debunking the myths of UI design", Paul Smith of IBM has interesting things to say about the skills needed to create a good user interface, as opposed to the skills needed to actually implement that interface (write the computer code to make the interface happen for the user):

Occasionally, an exceptional software developer can both design and code the user interface, but the majority do not have the critical skills for user interface design. These include:
  • The ability to apply the principles of navigation, selection, direct manipulation, consistency, and standard interaction styles
  • The ability to apply user input to design (wants and needs, tasks and scenarios, competitor information, feedback on user interface designs)
  • A grasp of high-level design (metaphors, user models, systems design, usefulness and conceptual consistency, task flow)
  • An understanding of user interface paradigms (form-based, menu-based, application-oriented graphical user interfaces, multiple-document interfaces, object-oriented interfaces, compound-document interfaces) and knowledge of what makes a good hybrid.
He adds that "The Web is recapitulating the history of graphical user interface design, only this time it is likely to be worse because the implementation hurdle is lower and the cycle time is shorter... Schedule pressure has increased, and the belief is that Web pages are so easy to build and online feedback so easy to collect that we all might as well skip design and feedback during development. Clearly, there is a need for streamlined development methods for the Web context, but all the realities described above [regarding the need for good usability practices] still apply."

Paul Smith has been a human-computer interaction professional at the IBM Toronto Software Lab for the past 13 years. In that time, he has served as manager of a UI design department and, for the last four years, as the user-centered design lead for IBM's WebSphere Commerce Suite. Paul earned his Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology from the University of Toronto in 1991.


Most small business web sites are created by single individuals, or very small groups. You may want to check to see whether or not the interface for your web site really meets the needs of your customers.


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