I recently read Alan Cooper’s book The Inmates Are Running the Asylum, which came out in the late 1990s. Cooper is known as the “Father of Visual Basic” and founder of Cooper, a San Francisco design consultancy. In his book, he takes a comprehensive look at software companies’ engineering-centric development processes and how they lead to unusable software. The book is a must-read for interaction designers.
For me, the most memorable part of the book is the chapter “Designing for Power,” in which Cooper discusses—among other interesting topics—why we should design human-like politeness into software. In this two part series of articles, I’ll discuss Cooper’s fourteen characteristics of polite software, providing relatable examples—both good and bad. I hope this approach to software design will be as helpful to you as it has been for me. Read More
Design professionals often decry the lack of importance and investment their companies place on design. After all, most software projects revolve around a product’s engineering, to the ongoing detriment of its design—not to mention the chagrin of so many designers, who wriggle uncomfortably toward the bottom of the food chain. But there is a good reason for this: products can be very profitable without investing a single penny in interface design—at least, beyond the user interfaces the engineers build. Indeed, at least in the early stages of a market or company, resources dedicated to intentional interface design are often a bonus rather than being viewed as a necessity. Sound crazy? Consider the natural and normal evolution of a software product. Read More
In Part 1 of this two-part series, I highlighted the study Byron Reeves and Clifford Nass conducted at Stanford University, which showed that people treat computers, Web sites, applications, and other new media just as they treat other people. The study’s findings formed the basis of my article’s core argument: we should strive to design human-like politeness into software.
In his book The Inmates Are Running the Asylum, Alan Cooper describes fourteen characteristics of polite software. I discussed the first nine of those characteristics in detail in Part 1. Now, in Part 2, I’ll cover the remaining five characteristics of polite software, providing several examples. Read More