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Part VI: Software Usability

Part VI: Software Usability

Introduction

The user interface is the point of contact between programs and people, the river that marks the boundary between the user and the used. Software developers stand on both sides of this river. As programmers they are, in a sense, inside the computer, where they see the usual mess or the exceptional elegance of the actual code that makes things happen. At the same time they are users of computer software, outsiders looking in, seeing not the code but the arrangement of features and fields that make their development tools and support systems either more or less usable. They have, therefore, a double interest in the user interface: as designers and as users.

Usability is arguably the quintessential measure of software quality. It does not matter much whether a program has spectacular graphics or speedy algorithms or even bug-free performance if it is all but impossible to use. If a system does not do something that is useful, if it does not provide services or capabilities that meet user needs, can it be said to be a good system?



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