Why the Software Industry's Incentive System is Failing Users and What Needs to Change

The Incentive System in the Software Industry Must Change


The software industry has undergone a significant transformation in recent years, driven by the rise of web-based applications and the prioritization of creative and clever designs over conventional ones. However, according to a recent opinion piece posted on Hacker News, the current incentive system in the software industry is at fault, and the industry must change if it wants to meet real user needs.

The post argues that the problem lies with the industry’s promotion and career incentive system, which rewards designers, engineers, and product managers who focus on creating more solutions rather than addressing real problems. No designer is promoted for sticking to conventional designs, nor is an engineer rewarded for keeping the code base lean. Instead, they are encouraged to come up with new and creative solutions, regardless of whether those solutions are needed or not.

Moreover, the post highlights how much the user interface has changed over the years from adhering to platform guidelines and conventions to a more customized and unique look. The rise of web-based applications has brought about an increased focus on the corporate brand, often at the expense of usability and user experience.

The article argues that this focus on creativity over usability has led to a mess of custom controls, cryptic icons, and inconsistencies in the user interface, making it difficult for users to learn and use products. The lack of standardization in the industry, in turn, makes it challenging for users to use software consistently across different platforms.

The article also discusses how the rise of Agile, an iterative and incremental approach to project management, has prioritized quick development cycles over user experience and usability, leading to a neglect of implementing standard UI paradigms and consistent user shortcuts.

Finally, the post recommends that the software industry must align its incentives with actual user needs and focus on creating usable and user-centric designs, rather than purely creative ones. It urges designers, engineers, and managers to prioritize user needs above creativity and acknowledge that a focus on creativity only leads to solving imaginary problems.

In conclusion, the software industry must balance creativity with usability and develop products that meet real user needs. The incentive system must also shift to reward user-centric designs that prioritize usability, consistency, and standardization. The industry must recognize its responsibility towards users and work towards creating software that is easy and enjoyable to use.

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