Jorge Manrubia

February 26, 2023



I’m fascinated by the sensations that the things we use induce in us. Not their usefulness, suitability, ergonomics, or aesthetics, but sensations. I don’t have a better term to capture something as substantial as difficult to describe, but I can illustrate with some very personal sensation-driven opinions:

  • Zelda Breath of the Wild’s open world from 2017 feels way more immersive than the technically stunning one in Horizon Forbidden West 2, a next-gen game from 2022.
  • Ruby and Python are two programming languages very similar in features and intent, but the sensations they produce in me are entirely different. Python does the job. Ruby puts a smile on my face. 
  • Regarding personal task managers, I always go back to Taskpaper. I miss basic stuff such as support for rich text and images all the time, but I love the feeling of writing text with the right amount of todo goodies. It feels just right.
  • For note management, I gave a serious shot to Craft last year, but I eventually went back to Bear. Craft is excellent, but Bear’s editor and the overall environment felt like home to me, and I could never shake that feeling off.
  • I’m a sucker for markdown, editors, and self-publishing pipelines. I had a sweet combo in place with my site, but when I started using Hey World, I began to write way more. I have published my favorite pieces using the very simple composer of HEY, sending an email to the world. A matter of how it makes me feel?

It might seem that you can rationalize sensations, but you really can't. Building the right sensations requires the right high-level intent combined with getting a thousands of low-level details right. You need synergy – sorry for the dreaded enterprisey word. And the more complex the system, the more things to get right. I can't even imagine the work implied in getting a modern $200M video game feel right or the stress of not managing to do it.

Sensations are never part of the distilled list of features we love when comparing products, and yet, they are the essential factor that makes something stand out.

Photo by Yoann Boyer on Unsplash

About Jorge Manrubia

A programmer who writes about software development and many other topics. I work at 37signals.