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SIGIA-L Mail Archives: [Sigia-l] Exhibit A

[Sigia-l] Exhibit A

From: Ziya Oz (
Date: Sat Nov 25 2006 - 02:06:58 EST

Joel Spolsky recently wrote a critique of the OFF button in the upcoming
Windows Vista:


But even more interesting is the breathtaking account by a Microsoft
developer on how they actually created it:

I spent a full year working on a feature which should've been designed,
implemented and tested in a week.
So that nets us a conservative estimate of 24 people involved in this
feature. Also each team of 8 was separated by 6 layers of management from
the leads, so let's add them in too, giving us 24 + (6 * 3) - 1 (the shared
manager) 41 total people with a voice in this feature. Twenty-four of them
were connected sorta closely to the code, and of those twenty four there
were exactly zero with final say in how the feature worked. Somewhere in
those other 17 was somebody who did have final say but who that was I have
no idea since when I left the team -- after a year -- there was still no
decision about exactly how this feature would work.
But here's how the design process worked: approximately every 4 weeks, at
our weekly meeting, our PM would say, "the shell team disagrees with how
this looks/feels/works" and/or "the kernel team has decided to include/not
include some functionality which lets us/prevents us from doing this
particular thing". And then in our weekly meeting we'd spent approximately
90 minutes discussing how our feature -- er, menu -- should look based on
this "new" information. Then at our next weekly meeting we'd spend another
90 minutes arguing about the design, then at the next weekly meeting we'd do
the same, and at the next weekly meeting we'd agree on something... just in
time to get some other missing piece of information from the shell or kernel
team, and start the whole process again.
The end result of all this is what finally shipped: the lowest common
denominator, the simplest and least controversial option.


I point this out not to bash MSFT (way too easy :-) but to underline the
hypocrisy and utter incompetence of an organization that sets "best
practices" for the rest of the software industry. Yes, today, in 2006,
unbelievable as it may seem, the fat part of the traditional IT Bell curve
still looks to MSFT for design/development guidance. Indeed, if you read the
doc under which MSFT "licenses" the Office 2007 "Ribbon" UI, you'll see that
MSFT sees itself perfectly capable of dictating best practice use of the UI
by third parties. Mind-boggling.

If you ever needed evidence against design by committee or why Design
leadership is crucial in your next presentation, look no further.

Usability >  Simplify the Solution
Design >  Simplify the Problem
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