In “90% of Programming Jobs“, I mention that most of our work is based on making other employees’ jobs easier. This is an important thing to keep in mind.
As programmers, we may not think it is difficult to modify settings files, change user access permissions, open ports, etc. These tasks are natural to us. So we don’t include these “obvious” things in our instructions.
But, for non-programmers, these tasks are not obvious.
Also, as the people who write programs, we know what type of data goes into fields. We’re not going to enter a letter into a textbox we know is expecting numbers. But, one day a user will eventually do that.
Part of making users’ jobs easier is to make our programs easier to use.
I’ve long said that the best program is a service that runs in the background – without any user interaction. The second-best program has one button on it that says, “Do my work”.
Think about this when you create your programs. Even if you don’t focus on UX (user experience), learn about it.
When you create your programs, keep the user interface as simple as possible. Write the text on the screen in the language the users speak. Make the next step obvious. Let the users know how far along they are in a process. Tell them they’re on step three of eight. Show progress bars, so the users know the program is working. If the program displays an error message, don’t say there’s an error, tell the user how to correct the problem.
When talking with users, realize they may not know anything about programming, but they may know a lot about the business need.