Are You Designing For A Maximum Audience?

I used to have a tradition in my programming days, of going to the Interface Hall of Shame (now quite out of date to find out the latest things not to do.  And yes, as you guessed, my programming days were quite awhile ago.

Anyway, to get away from my age to the subject, one of the things I learned as a programmer was that designing a good interface was not obvious.  Most people designed interfaces with . .  . well I'm not sure what they had in *mind* since thinking was not often part of the process.  Let's just say I saw some bad stuff.

I also noticed that people rarely thought about limits on the users – their age, color blindness, use of bifocals, hearing,etc.  People forget that potential users can have limitations, and that these limits, even seemingly minor ones, can have a massive impact on usability of a product – and if people want to buy it.

Right now when everyone is apparently trying to get out 3D tablets with virtual smell recognition systems, I think it might be time to ask, my dear programmers and hardware designers, how usable is your project by the population as a whole.  I'm starting to wonder if anyone is thinking this over deeply.

Technology is getting into the hands of more and more people around the world.  Is the technology you're working on, from apps to consumer electronics, usable by as much of the population as possible?  Are you thinking about your audience's conceptual, physical, and sensory limits?  If you aren't your competitors probably are.

That concerns me as of late in this incredible rush to create 3D game systems, tablet computers, and iPhone-a-likes.  Are companies and developers churning out cool stuff without thinking about the broadest audience possible – and thus limiting themselves?  Worse, are they annoying potential consumers and giving more power to their competitors?

(Or are they just annoying a lot of people?)

So if you work in programming, electronic design, or even create consumable media, think for a moment about your audience.  Can people use or read or play your product easily, even with some limitations of experience, age, etc.?  Or are you just designing without thinking of the broadest possible market?

Steven Savage