When Will the Last Table Be Filled

When will the last table be filled, the last button be aligned and the last label be formatted? Over and over and over and over and over again… The most „interesting“ programming problems in UI development are often only annoying nitpicky details you have to figure out because of some crappy programming language or framework or a combination of both.1

I wonder how user interface programming might evolve in the near future. It needs some masterminds to come up with completely new paradigms and some bold companies to push things forward. The current state of most UI programming is one big disappointment. The cases where this is still enjoyable are hard to find.

One reason is that a good user interface is still only needed or wanted in a niche market for some categories on some platforms for some users. The vast majority of software out there is some kind of tool that people need to work with. Those people don’t pay for the tools they need. The people that have to pay for those tools are the people that are only looking at Excel sheets filled with numbers that are picked out of nowhere by people that have no idea what actual people need to accomplish. And based on those Excel sheets, usability and extraordinary user interfaces are clearly not interesting at all. Stick to the most basic stuff, don’t invest in something people might enjoy.

And it’s not only tools to work with! Look at the app store! Sure, there’s a ton of great apps. But look behind the curtain. Look at all the millions of apps out there. How many of them are good? And how many of them are just crap not worth the bytes they are stored in?

On the other hand there are programs and tools out there that are just beautiful and easy to use. There are companies that create stunning pieces of software that people love. But compare the amount of those tools to all the other existing software. It’s marginal. And only a few care. For the most part, software is tables and buttons and labels. Maybe… and only maybe, there is a textbox hidden somewhere as an easter egg for the power users.

User interfaces are important! It’s important to create good software that is easy to use! Let’s all make the world a better place by writing good looking apps that are easy to use! Let’s make people happy and enjoy their time they are forced to sit in front of their computer or carrying a mobile device! Don’t leave those poor people only with tables and buttons and labels jumping in their faces. And please don’t leave those poor bastards needed to create these good looking pieces of software with only tables and buttons and labels!

There is a movement in the right direction. A lot of companies (and users) are becoming aware of the usability problem. It’s getting better, for sure. But it’s a slow movement. It’s not only designers that are pushing it. It is seen by managers, companies, users… It is getting better. But it needs to be faster. And there needs to be a different way. Maybe the way crappy software was built for decades is not the way software for the future should be built.

A dream ever since has been to automatically generate user interfaces. And this is not only a dream of managers looking at Excel sheets. But what good can come of that? Tables? Buttons? Labels? There needs to be another solution. There needs to be a way to get the software industry into a place to acknowledge that. If only I would know such way…


  1. Yes… I’m looking at you, JavaScript! [return]