Usability on the Inside

Ashley McKee

May 2nd, 2007

Most of the people who use computers, visit web sites, talk on cell phones, drive cars, listen to iPods, never see the underlying code that directs their products, and frankly, they probably don’t care about it. But that doesn’t mean clean code isn’t important.

Kathy Sierra has a really funny, yet pertinent post on what has come to be known as “girl code.”

What prompted this post–and it’s whimsical title–is a post by Jamis Buck titled Beautiful code, test first, which includes the following: “He was telling me how he feels like he has to sit and tweak his code over and over until it not only acts right, but looks right. It cannot be merely functional, it must be beautiful, as well.”

But the best part was a comment by “Morten” that included the line:

“As for spending too much time on making the code look right down to the last indentation – my code has been called “girl code” for the same reason…”

Kathy also outlines the benefits of creating code that’s well formatted, well documented, and easy to maintain. This post particularly struck a chord with me, as a large portion of my background is based in programming. It’s tempting to throw a bit of Java, C++, Ruby, or what-have-you around and say, “Oh, it works. Who cares what it looks like?” But, when it comes to usability, everything on the inside is just as important as everything on the outside.

You can read Kathy’s entire post here: Code like a Girl

Also, for non-programmers, you can see a quick example of some less-than-stellar code with a nice write-up explaining its pitfalls here: What’s Wrong with this Code?, by Chris Becker.

How do you handle the aesthetics and usability of your product’s insides?

2 Responses to “Usability on the Inside”

  1. Elise van Looij Says:

    I like PHP but I don’t love it, because it’s ugly. Those $ that denote a variable, ugh, same with -> for class methods: not nice. The dot syntax in C looks a lot better. Applescript, though, is the most beautiful. Not incidentally, it’s also the easiest to read back a couple of months later.

  2. Alexander Says:

    Why is it that “when it comes to usability, everything on the inside is just as important as everything on the outside.”?

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