Writing a piece of software is fun! Or, at least most of the time it is. I enjoy working out what the software needs to do then planning how to achieve that. Sometimes the nitty gritty of the development can get a little less exciting but in the main, I enjoy that too. The trouble is that because I enjoy it I can end up writing the software for myself. That’s fine for a piece of software that I’m going to use but not when writing for a client. Recently I’ve been looking at writing some software for people who really aren’t interested in computers at all. In fact, I’ve been thinking about how information appears on a piece of paper or a screen for someone who has Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s tends to develop quite slowly. Folks who have this condition but are in the first few years of the condition showing itself can still interact with people, the tv and the written word fine. The challenge is that the memory is starting to go and the speed with which information can be absorbed slows down. So, for example, if other people speak too quickly then the words won’t be understood.
This leads me to think about the layout of information on a piece of paper or a computer screen. We need to show just the right amount of information, too much and the reader will be muddled, too little and the reader won’t have gained anything from the reading. Alongside the amount of information, we need to determine how the information should look. The visual layout can make such a difference to readability and understanding. Looking cool can’t be the top priority, clear communication is the objective.
So what about developing software for people without dementia – perhaps we need the same approach – put just the right information in front of people laid out in a way that communicates. And, as a developer, if you as my client don’t like the way the information is laid out, even if I do, then I need to change it so it suits you!