Monday, February 11, 2008

The Illusion of Completeness - embrace the "sketchy" prototype

As Joel Spolsky explains in his post The Iceberg Secret, Revealed, the user interface usually represents less than 10% of the actual functionality of the entire application.

"You know how an iceberg is 90% underwater? Well, most software is like that too — there's a pretty user interface that takes about 10% of the work, and then 90% of the programming work is under the covers. And if you take into account the fact that about half of your time is spent fixing bugs, the UI only takes 5% of the work. And if you limit yourself to the visual part of the UI, the pixels, what you would see in PowerPoint, now we're talking less than 1%."

As he reveals the different iceberg secrets, he touches on one that often affects many programmers. When you show something that looks too fancy, it sends a false message of how close the application is to being finished. This is the illusion of completeness.

"If you show a nonprogrammer a screen which has a user interface which is 100% beautiful, they will think the program is almost done. People who aren't programmers are just looking at the screen and seeing some pixels. And if the pixels look like they make up a program which does something, they think "oh, gosh, how much harder could it be to make it actually work?" The big risk here is that if you mock up the UI first, presumably so you can get some conversations going with the customer, then everybody's going to think you're almost done. And then when you spend the next year working "under the covers," so to speak, nobody will really see what you're doing and they'll think it's nothing."

Because of the rigidity that comes from this illusion, the application looks too complete to get useful feedback on the real functionality. Instead, people will focus on superficial usability tweaks like screen layout, button placement, background colors, etc. Kathy Sierra elaborates on this topic in her post Don't make the Demo look Done.

"The more "done" something appears, the more narrow and incremental the feedback…Show them something polished and pretty, and you'll get feedback on font sizes. The reviewers make incremental tweaks, blinded by what's in front of them. But show a napkin sketch, and they don't just see what's there, they see what's possible."    (Continued via introspectiveH)    [Usability Resources]

Photoshop Mockup - Usability, User Interface Design

Photoshop Mockup

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