I mean really, when’s the last time you used the “stop” button?

In a previous post, I talked about going through your old bag of programming tricks and eliminating those that are either outdated or just no longer practical. This post is along the same lines, as it about getting rid of things you don’t need. Many programmers, myself included, tend to fall into the habit of what I call “conditioned programming”. We program systems the way are used to and we don’t really stop to think about what we’re doing from one system to the next. This often leads to stubbornness or bullheadedness on the part of the programmer when asked why the system works the way it does. We get defensive; after all, it’s not our problem that the customer was sold a product that is way over his head, we just program the commands that are on the factory remote, right? Well, frustration with misleading sales staff aside, it is always in the programmer’s best interest to analyze and evaluate the needs of the customer for each system he or she programs.

Many end users can tell you right away that they never use certain commands for a particular device. This can clear up confusion from the get-go, reduce clutter on the touch panel and ultimately make the system much easier for the customer to operate. You can also make some executive decisions of your own and give the axe to buttons and commands that you’ve been including for years but are seldom used by most of your customers. I just recently had the revelation that the “stop” command could be eliminated from a number of devices for which I had been habitually including it. And if you’re still putting the “angle” button on your DVD pages you should really be taken out back and taught a lesson. Seriously though, if you are an efficient programmer it will be no big deal to add these obscure commands back in if the customer specifically requests them. I personally find it helpful to create an Excel spreadsheet that lists optional device commands and system features so I can fill it out when I meet with a customer (of course, this could be due to the fact that I am an organizational freak who will find any excuse I can to create an Excel spreadsheet).

If you are already following the programming practices I’ve outlined here, I’m sorry you just wasted your time reading this, but if you quite often fall into the habit of “conditioned programming”, I think you will find it helpful to start analyzing your projects a little more. It will make your customers happier, reduce service calls, and keep you in the habit of regularly revisiting your programming practices.

Aaron Craig

Aaron Craig is a graphic designer & entrepreneur. He is the founder of NTDesigns, a UI design firm that specializes in touchscreen based interfaces, especially in the home automation industry. He is the primary author for the NTDesigns Blog, and writes periodically for other blogs and publications in the UI design and automation realms when he can. Aaron lives in Milwaukee with his family and two dogs, Napoleon and Kip.

  • Hello!
    Congrats to your new blog!
    I fully support what you posted but allow me to simply condense it into a single statement you already mentioned: “.. if the customer requests it”. I am teaching all the junior programmers to include only things, which are absolutely needed and let the customer respond what he think is missing. However, demand that they have to work with your design for more than just three days. If you ask them the next days, they will find everything you did is crappy; ask them after a week, they will complain about 10 different things, but if you return after two weeks they will congrat you to your good easy to understand basic layout and politely ask for a couple of buttons to be added!
    Works for me!
    Watch out: The Angle feature is indeed used but only one a single very special genre of DVDs. They will however refuse to hand out a dvd to you to test it. ;-)


    Harald Steindl

    March 7, 2009

  • I use the angle button every 2 years when I play my King Crimson DVD. It only works on the first track though.


    March 26, 2009

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