Hampton Catlin is the inventor of Sass, Haml and Wikipedia Mobile. Currently he can be found building crazy new technologies to mobilize the web at Moovweb.
You’ve seen a button before. You’ve used hundreds of websites that are filled with buttons very similar to the one above. But this isn’t any button. This is YOUR button. The button you see looks like many others, but it is different because it's yours.
When we are so involved in the execution of creative work, we are given an entirely different perspective on the work we are doing than when we view it as an outsider. When I look at the button above, which is taken from the Moovweb cloud management console, I don’t see a button. I imagine architecture diagrams, the meetings I’ve had, and the technical choices that were made to put that button in that spot. I think about the database that is behind that button, the team dynamics that made it, and the marketing team who picked the color.
To me, that is not a button. It is a portal into a complicated technical world.
However, when you look at it, you just see a button. You don’t know all that background. You are without context. To you, the full sum of that button is its pixels and the content on the page around it.
You may not have a lot of buttons, but if you are involved in any creative execution then you have a strong bias to think about the execution over the interpretation. An artist doesn’t see the painting she made. She thinks about the day when she painted it or the feeling that she had when creating it. This is just as true for web development as it is for any creative journey.
I call this the executor’s bias. It is the difference in understanding between a product's executor and user, when the executor is unable to understand what the user values in the product.
Put simply, we care a lot more about the complexities of our product than for simple, user facing issues. We spend a lot more time thinking about the processes and backend issues than we do thinking about the interfaces of our product. Raskin puts this best...
To the user, the interface is the product.
We need to ensure that our organizations and development cycles and tools support those people who do primarily care about the interface. People who think about buttons. And we need to remove the bias that people who think about buttons is synonymous with “person who doesn’t think about important things.” Because, to your user, the button is all they see.
So, find yourself a great button lover, give them great tools, and your users will be thrilled. Just because they aren’t as technical, doesn’t mean they are less valuable.