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Defect Defense

In editing interfaces, it helps to be negative, to be able to take on the attitude of the stereotypical New York theater critic or book reviewer, focusing on weaknesses and mistakes, on problems and shortcomings. This may be the easiest part for programmers and engineers, who seem almost by nature to be a critical lot. Put any two of them in front of a whiteboard and you get three strong opinions—followed by an exchange of verbal artillery. They are quick to point out the flaws in each other's designs or the limits of proposed solutions. On the other hand, their typical response to criticism, implied or proclaimed, is to explain.

A key rule for editing interfaces, then, is never to defend or explain anything. There is almost always a reason why you put that button over there or refreshed the thumbnail image when an item was clicked, but the real issues in usability are not the internal reasons but the external consequences. To stay in tune with your capacity as creative critic, you have to stop yourself from justifying or explaining your own design and programming decisions.


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