Interfaces need editors

Jason Fried on editing interfaces. He says:

“What matters is the editing. Software needs an editor like a writer needs an editor or a museum needs a curator. Someone with a critical eye and the ability to say “No, that doesn’t belong” or “There’s a better way to say this.” Physical constraints create natural limits for books and museums. Books have pages and museums have wall space. Software, on the other hand, is virtual, boundless.”

I completely agree with Jason on this. You need someone pushing back as much as you need someone pushing forward. You need, not necessarily a critical eye, but a concerned eye that isn’t colored with the effort of creation. A creator is almost never equipped to be objective about their creation. (nor should they be)

Jason Fried on editing interfaces. He says:

“What matters is the editing. Software needs an editor like a writer needs an editor or a museum needs a curator. Someone with a critical eye and the ability to say “No, that doesn’t belong” or “There’s a better way to say this.” Physical constraints create natural limits for books and museums. Books have pages and museums have wall space. Software, on the other hand, is virtual, boundless.”

I completely agree with Jason on this. You need someone pushing back as much as you need someone pushing forward. You need, not necessarily a critical eye, but a concerned eye that isn’t colored with the effort of creation. A creator is almost never equipped to be objective about their creation. (nor should they be)

When I create interfaces for clients, I ask for feedback on everything. I want to be edited, I want that push-back because it makes the design better, which is the only goal. (but, of course, it makes me better too). It’s amazing how many times we end up scratching something that was in the original interface because we realized that it’s just not providing core value.

Without an editing step, you don’t get to the point where you ask “is this really necessary?”. You never get to “but is this providing core value that we can’t live without?”. In addition, without an editing phase you improve much, much slower. Without editing you start drinking your own kool-aid.

Also, another point. The editing phase isn’t as much about the look and feel as it is about message. Editing is mostly about clarity and making the interface concise. It’s a lot of copy-writing, and only a little rounding corners.

Here’s a great bit from On Writing Well. It nicely sums up the act of editing/rewriting/interface design:

Rewriting is the essence of writing well: it’s where the game is won or lost. The idea is hard to accept. We all have an emotional equity in our first draft; we can’t believe that it wasn’t born perfect. But the odds are close to 100% that it wasn’t. Most writers don’t initially say what they want to say, or say it as well as they could. The newly hatched sentence almost always has something wrong with it. It’s not clear. It’s not logical. It’s verbose. It’s klunky. It’s pretentious. It’s boring. It’s full of clutter. It’s full of clichés. It lacks rhythm. It can be read in several different ways. it doesn’t lead out of the previous sentence. It doesn’t…The point is that clear writing is the result of a lot of tinkering.

Published: October 10th, 2007

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