While searching the Udacity.com site for classes that looked interesting, I ran across one on design. It is called the Introduction to Design of Everyday Things. It is taught by the guy who wrote the definite book on the subject, Don Norman. I found this to be a really interesting class. It wasn’t specifically about the subject of software, but rather how humans interact with objects all around them and how good design considers both the affordances the human interaction allows and the signifiers used to make things more clear. The final project in the class was to design the interface for a time bank application. This application was to allow you to trade “hours” rather than money and have people perform work for you and you to perform work for others. As you perform work for someone else, you gain hours and as others do work for you, you send those hours to them, so they can then use them for something they need done. It was a really cool concept and something that was pretty fun to try to build a UI design for.
The course got me thinking about the way we put software together. It is really critical when designing software, especially for the mobile space, we think about how intuitive our interface is. As developers, we often don’t seem to take as much stock into our UI, rather we get wrapped up in how many features an application has or how technically cool it is. Without an intuitive design, you may be the only person using the awesome app you just spent the last 3 months working on. Think of all of the programs you have downloaded or the apps you have installed on your phone and how many you quickly uninstalled when you became frustrated at not being able to determine how the thing works. This is the same pain every user feels. It is a shame when it is your app they feel that way about. So as a developer, take the time to speak with other people about your interface. Try not to tell them how it works, but rather ASK THEM how they think it works. Take that feedback and consider a redesign to make things more intuitive. The time you spend may be the difference in a really cool app that no one ever uses or the next big thing to become famous.
Finally, if you are interested in the subject, I highly recommend this class. It is really short. I was able to complete the entire course in just a couple of days. It truly was just an introduction (covers the first few chapters of the book) and I have added the book to my wish list of books to read this year.