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Chapter 43. Getting the Message > Where's the User?

Where's the User?

While teaching at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia, I analyzed some of the most popular and successful texts on object-oriented analysis and design. It was a very scientific sample: I checked every book on the subject in my office, then walked down the hall and went through Professor Brian Henderson-Sellers's bookshelves. Not surprisingly, we owned a lot of the same books, but between us we had 15 different recent texts on object-oriented development, including nearly all of the most widely used and referenced. Out of nearly 6,000 pages in total, a mere 161 pages discussed any aspect of users, user requirements, usability, or user interfaces, and nearly three-quarters of these were in just three books. More than half of the books devoted three or fewer pages to any subject connected with users and use. A full third did not even have any relevant index citations, and one book, while devoting a whole page to the topic of software usefulness, did not bother to index it. Perhaps the situation is changing, as several books attest, including Designing Object-Oriented User Interfaces (Collins 1995) and Object Modeling and User Interface Design (van Harmelen 2000). Not a moment too soon or a page too many, we might conclude.

To many who use objects in their development work, it is still unclear just what it is that object technology might bring to the user interface and offer to users. After all, object technology is really the technology under the hood, the technology of implementation, not the technology of interaction. Like the rest of software engineering, the evolution of object orientation has been largely directed toward improving this machinery under the hood, with barely a nod to the niceties of whether the hood release might be located somewhere that the driver can reach.


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