2006/02/17

Software Development's Evolution towards Product Design

Software Development's Evolution towards Product Design -- Danc Redmond writes a great article from the perspective of a product designer.  I agree with nearly everything he says, especially the need for small, unified, cross-functional teams.  A few minor caveats:
  • Programming, done properly, is not a production activity that can easily be separated from product design.  If it could be, it's basically rote work that can and should be automated.  The non-rote work that programmers should focus on is all about figuring out how to hack the universe in order to deliver superior benefits to the customer.  Which is part and parcel of product design, which is why those small, cross-functional teams are so valuable.
  • A big factor in game development and web design companies' successes was sheer volume and high competition.  There are plenty of terrible user experience in both camps (books have been written), but the industries have thus had a chance to learn from lots of successes and failures and iteratively improve. 
  • Nit: The benefits summary is great -- 98% success vs. 18% success is a great statistic that can get business people to sit up and listen.  But y'know, this needs to be backed up with specific references to really pack the necessary punch.
In the past, most of the software industry has been busy creating dancing bears.  It's not how well the bear dances, but that it dances at all.  That is changing.  There will be some isolated refugia for internal corporate software, niche verticals, and bleeding-edge hardware interfaces where those clumsy dancers will survive and even thrive.  But the rest of the industry is going to start competing on more than bare functionality, and that will quickly shake out the companies which won't or can't adapt.