Monday, November 8, 2010

Today's Thawt: Programmers vs Designers

If you take a holistic, aggregate view of ASP.NET or ASP.NET MVC web sites you will find that 99.999999999 percent of them looks like something crapped out of a robot's ass.  I think that quote was from Confucius, or maybe it was Ptolemy.  Who cares.  The point is that asking a programmer to make a web site (or as they prefer to call it "a web application") is asking for a mechanic to build you a sculpture.  It will likely function very well, but it won't likely be pretty.

Conversely, asking a "web designer" to build a complicated web-based application (say, something like your average HR manager would use every minute of their day at work to process terminations, and promote people with no reason to be promoted) then you will get a pretty site, with Web 2.0 AJAX JQuery buttons that morph and slide and fade in and out, but the workflow will be strange, the reports will contain flawed calculation results and the HR manager will fire them next.

I've been building web sites and web applications for quite a few years.  I'm not an expert, but I play one on my imaginary TV station, so I can speak from minimal experience on this.  I've spent a LOT of time on both sides of the conference table.  As both the "user"/"customer" and the "developer", and for a good while I functioned as a "technical liaison" to translate the MBA to BWD and vice versa.  BWD is Bong-Water Drinker, the dialect spoken by the indigenous tribes of Skittledom near the mountains of RedBullia, where they raise programmers on vines and pluck them at just the right peak of ripeness to deliver to industry.  Reminds me of those old spaghetti sauce commercials with the grainy film of the Mario-looking guy picking tomatos for the kids to crush into little hand-made cans of Ragu.  Tears.  I need a tissue.

Where was I?  Oh yeah, coders and suits. Suits and coders.

If you get the right mix of them in one room, amazing things happen.  Magical things.  Things that blow people's minds.  But the wrong mix and you end up with crap like this.

Here's the general rule for building web apps and web sites:

  1. Function First!  It must work properly and be easy to navigate.  The information has to be correct.  The results and reports need to be accurate.  Handle errors properly!
  2. Get the Customer to approve everything.
  3. Pretty it up

I'm not saying "looks aren't important".  They are.  But function has to come first.  It doesn't matter if your beautiful sports car is nice to look at IF it can't turn a corner or the brakes don't work.

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