Hibai Unzueta

March 15, 2021

Why build it if the user can

When building software we sometimes wish we had a crystal ball and could anticipate what the user would like to, so that our tool could fit her like a glove. Just think about it. She goes "oh I wish I could see these numbers in a bar chart" just to realise a few milliseconds later a button that says "see this as a bar chart".

This is never going to work.

Why? Because it unleashes a domino effect resulting in bloat and maladaptation.

The tools we build live in the world, side by side with other tools in a diversity of toolsets that people use to get their jobs done. If after listening to a few users we go and add a feature, we may break other possible uses by constraining too much or by competing with the basic flows that derive 80% of the value of the tool.

Our tools need to be minimal. Not barren, minimal in the sense that they fit in with a rich variety of uses by not imposing too much on how they are meant to be used. By focusing on the primary things where 80% of the value is.

They can also be good neighbours this way. Remember our user? What if she can just copy the numbers and paste them in a spreadsheet, where she can get her bar chart and whatever other thing she wants to do, while our tool stays focused on whatever main problems we came in to help with?