Whom do you write software for?

One of the first questions you ask yourself when you are looking to write a piece of software is “Whom is this for?” If you’re planning appropriately, you might have detailed demographics or mapped personality traits of your future users. That’s great; you should definitely know who the customer is, what their pain is, and how you will be able to solve it better than anyone else.

But what often is taken for granted during planning is even simpler than the psychographic profiles or generational cohorts you may have created. What’s overlooked so often is that people use your software. Old people, young people, people who didn’t learn English as a first language or who don’t spend much time in front of a computer. People who learn in different ways and don’t always use your software the way in which it was intended. People who can be as unpredictable as, well, people. This oversight is especially important for developing mobile software.

In the pre-mobile era, there was only one way to interact with a computer, with a keyboard and a mouse. Now with the explosion of touch devices and the exponential permutations of screen sizes, there are physical and contextual considerations that also need to be accounted for when writing software; people have different size hands and fingers; many have poor eyesight and short attention spans. You also need to consider how and when they are using your app. Are they on a 3G cellular connection or Wi-Fi? Are they in a hurry while waiting for a meeting to start? Is there sun on their device? Can they do what they need to do in the tiny amount of time they need to do it?

These extra considerations often make the difference between the apps that people want to use and those they don’t. Physical considerations — the size of buttons, the distance between the buttons or links, the size of the tap targets all matter. Contextual considerations like speed, intuitiveness, consistency, can also derail a positive experience if not considered.

In the past, the roots of this type of thinking was lumped under the broad umbrella of ‘user friendly software’, which then morphed into its own category of ‘usability’ until finally settling into what people today call ‘user experience’ or UX. As a standalone discipline, ‘user experience’ is continually growing and has even spawned several sub genres like ‘human computer interaction’ (HCI), ‘information architecture’, ‘interaction design’ and others. Companies like NewsGator are investing more and more in ‘user experience’ and how it impacts software development because what good is software if it doesn’t work for the people who use it?

At NewsGator, we have lots of thoughts about user experience, but we really need to hear yours. In fact, at the Collective, NewsGator’s annual user group meeting which will be held March 5-7 in Denver, we’re proud to host The Experience Lounge, sponsored by Synergy. Synergy is one of NewsGator’s partners that specializes in creating custom user experiences, like the one they did for Oakley’s implementation of NewsGator Social Sites. Look at some of the cool things they’re working on – and come talk to us about how to realize your vision!

Oakley UI by Synergy

Shared Picture Library by Synergy hooks into community feeds

Accordian Web Part by Synergy

The Lounge will be a comfortable place where you can stop by and talk to us about your ideas around user experience, be it around our web clients, mobile clients, desktop apps or our Outlook plugin. We’ll have a few things to show you as well, so as you plan your trip to the Collective, make sure to save some time to hang out in the Experience Lounge, sponsored by Synergy.


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