Grumpy software engineers

In the care and feeding of software engineers, Nicholas Zakas says:

I have a theory. That theory is that software engineers see themselves very differently than those with whom they work. I’ve come to this conclusion after over a decade in the software industry working at companies large and small. Companies (product managers, designers, other managers) tend to look at software engineers as builders. It’s the job of the product manager to dream up what to build, the job of the designer to make it aesthetically pleasing, and the job of the engineer to build what they came up with. Basically, engineers are looked at as the short-order cooks of the industry.

This article is deeply related to my thoughts on UX throughout. The impact engineering has upon the final experience is drastically underestimated, which results in programmers working to spec rather than feeling that they are participating in the creation of a great product. This disenfranchisement necessarily results in sub-par experiences.

The engineering effort and creativity behind a service like Google, Facebook or Twitter is mind-bogglingly extraordinary. That they feel so effortless is testament to this. In the case of Google, the research and engineering effort in producing relevant results from billions of potential results in a split-second is staggering. For Facebook and Twitter, the sheer volume of content passing through their services within a single minute is probably something crazy like all the books written — let alone published — in the past ten years. This effort is routinely ignored.

Particularly for a search engine, user experience is driven entirely by engineers: quality of results is paramount. But what do we see discussed endlessly? Google’s design changes. While I feel that programmers have a tendency to self-aggrandise, myself included, there’s a reason we feel a need to resort to doing it ourselves.

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