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Champions Made

Magazine editors often approach their work from the point of view of an archetypal ignorant reader. Pete Bickford, erstwhile User Interface Champion at Apple, has a similar take on assessing user interfaces. He used to say that his job involved playing the part of the dumbest user on the planet. It's a mindset in which you tune out all the things you know about computers or the application or the programming. If you can look in the upper right corner of a Windows application window and see a button to multiply something, you are on your way to becoming a more effective editor of interfaces.

Studied imperviousness and practiced innocence are not enough, however. Editing is creative as well as critical. You can't just cross things out, you have to also write things in. What you write involves judgment informed by knowledge of good form. Just as you can't be a newspaper editor without knowing the basics of journalism and the rules of grammar, you must understand the rules of usability if you are going to edit user interfaces. You need to recognize unnecessary complexity or awkward workflow, then know how to simplify messy organization or smooth out jerky operation. You even have to learn to see the things that aren't there, such as the missing feedback to the user or the functionality that isn't visible where and when it should be.


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