Archive for the 'Quotes' Category

The value of good requirements

Over on the iRise blog, there’s a great article about measuring the hidden return on investment (ROI) of good requirements definition. David Walker speaks of how companies are focusing on “reduction in rework” and points out that the after-effect of reducing rework is accelerated time to market, which has several significant (monetary) benefits. David also points out:

Rework isn’t the only place to look for time-to-market advantages.  Focusing on requirements definition not only reduces re-work – it also reduces WORK work.  At an agile development conference in 2006, Mary Poppendiek (author of Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit for Software Development Managers) shared that  45% of code that’s written is NEVER EXECUTED!  Another 20% is only rarely executed.  It is however coded, documented, tested, trained, supported, maintained, etc.  All of which adsorbs resources – and adds time & cost – to projects.  Getting the requirements right interactively and up-front with end users helps make sure that unnecessary functionality never gets built.  What if your development teams could get 45% additional bandwidth simply by not working on stuff that will never be used?  Less stuff to build & test means, you guessed it, shortened time to market.

Even though I currently work in the government sector where time to market isn’t relevant (or at least not paid much attention), I can sure relate to the frustration of rework. We seem to be reinventing the wheel almost every day, as one group goes out to accomplish some great goal that another group has been working on for months.

How do you develop good requirements?

Rapid prototyping and user testing is key. Understanding your customers and their goals and motivations  is critical. Sound business analysis focusing on the right metrics, direct user interaction, and a focus on usability from the start will give successful results. Using rapid prototyping/requirements developments tools should help as well.

Of course, good vision, communication and organizational structure are going to be critical. Make sure you have all your people marching towards the same goal and everyone knows what the other groups are doing, so you don’t have a whole lot of re-solving the same old problem going on. That’s the kind of rework we don’t much talk about or measure, but whenever you have a fairly large organization, it happens.


Usability Quotes

I’ve collected a few usability quotes that I like to use in presentations and such. Here are a few of them:

The functions in software should be joined hand-in-hand with user needs:

 “Form follows function-that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union.” – Frank Lloyd Wright

When defining requirements, think about quality. Usability is a measure of quality.

 “If you don’t care about quality, you can meet any other requirement.” – Gerald M. Weinberg

Sometimes we get excited about technology and want to try it out to satisfy our own curiousity. But we should keep in mind what the user’s goals are:

“It is far better to adapt the technology to the user than to force the user to adapt to the technology.” – Larry Marine

When you’re rushed to get that software or product released, remember:

“The joy of an early release lasts but a short time. The bitterness of an unusable system lasts for years.” – Anonymous

I’ve often heard people talk about how much usability costs, but how much does UN-usability cost?

“Inadequate use of usability engineering methods in software development projects have been estimated to cost the US economy about $30 billion per year in lost productivity.” – Jakob Nielsen

To be most effective, usability methods should be applied early on (and often) throughout the lifecycle of the product. Why?

“You can use an eraser on the drafting table or a sledge hammer on the construction site.” – Frank Lloyd Wright

“It’s better to design the user experience than rectify it. It’s the difference between a cathedral and the Winchester House.” – Jon Meads

“Coding is long. Design is short. Paper is cheap.” – Anonymous

This goes hand in hand with this blog’s tagline and one of my all-time favorite quotes: “If the user can’t use it, it doesn’t work.”

“If there’s a ‘trick’ to it, the UI is broken.” – Douglas Anderson

And a longer one, but well worth repeating:

“Questions about whether design is necessary or affordable are quite beside the point: design is inevitable. The alternative to good design is bad design, not no design at all.

Everyone makes design decisions all the time without realizing it …good design is simply the result of making these decisions consciously, at the right stage, and in consultation with others as the need arise.”

– Douglas Martin (Book Design)