Usability for Nerds/Preface

Bigger companies that produce gadgets, appliances, software or other technical equipment often have a division of labor where engineers and programmers develop the technical functionality of the product while designers or marketing people design the user interface. These two groups of people often have difficulties understanding each other because they have very different ways of thinking. Often, smaller companies and open source developers have no access to expertise in user interface design at all.

This Wikibook is intended for engineers, technicians, programmers and others who construct and develop technical things and who want their products to be user-friendly. This should be useful for the following reasons:

  • Usability is important for most technical products, both hardware and software.
  • Technical developers need to take usability into account if no external expertise in this topic is available.
  • Technical developers need to understand the fundamental principles of usability in order to cooperate with designers about the design of user interfaces.
  • It is good to think usability into the design at an early stage rather than making adjustments later.
  • Usability often involves very technical details that designers know nothing about, e.g. how to make a dialog box with standardized behavior.

This book is based on a course in man/machine interface that I taught at the Technical University of Denmark in 2000, with later additions and updates. I have published it here as a Wikibook so that others can make additions, corrections and updates. Agner Fog.

What is usability?