I Care About Usability Because I’m Selfish

I wish that I could say that I am altruistic, but the real reason I care about usability* isn’t so noble: it’s because I’m selfish. Also because I’m prideful and greedy.

Design of Everyday Things Teapot

I care about usability because I don’t want to build an app that I wouldn’t use. And let me tell you, there is a long list of software that I don’t want to use. Software and technology can be so infuriating that you just want to take your printer out into a field and beat it with a baseball bat, Office Space-style. I selfishly want to make my life better; it just so happens I’m making the users’ lives better too.

I also care about usability because I’m prideful. The software I build is something that other people are presumably going to be using. If no one is using it, that’s downright embarrassing for me. My name may not be directly tied to it, but my name is tied to my company, which in turn is tied to the product. I’m spending a very significant chunk of my life developing software and I would like that it has a positive impact on people’s lives. I want what I do to matter. I’m not talking about leaving behind a legacy–I know software has a short lifespan–but I still want it to be impactful while it’s around.

I also care about usability because I’m greedy. I firmly believe that companies that can’t build usable software will not be successful in the long run. Notice I didn’t say that usability makes for success. There is a little bit of causality there but it’s more of a correlation. Successful companies have that je ne sais quoi that also lends itself to building usable software. The ingredients for success is a strange mixture that I’ve been trying to tweak my whole life. If the usability ain’t great, it’s not a good sign.

So if you hear me harp about usability please don’t mistake me for a bleeding-heart martyr. I care for users mainly because I believe that doing so is ultimately what’s best for me.

* By usability I mean usability, product, design, etc.

Teapot image is a reference to Don Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things.

Written 15 April 2015