Why Software Sucks

As I was reading again this classic essay of Scott Berkun, the part about “Construction vs. Design” attracted my attention,

One illustration of the philosophical differences between love of construction and love of good things is the belief that code should be beautiful. I’m a fan of beautiful things: the world can use more of them, including more lines of beautiful code. But the trap is that code is an artifact of constructing software. When code is well written (beautiful or homely), it compiles. And it’s the output of the compiler (or browser) that people see. It’s the complied code that changes the world. The beauty of the code is relevant only to people that look at code. To worry about code aesthetics more than the aesthetics of the product itself is akin to a song writer worrying about the aesthetics of the sheet music instead of the quality of the sounds people hear when the band actually plays.

It’s a strong belief among developers. Most of them think of code as the outcome of their work whereas it should be the product users see.

Graduating with a degree in Computer science does not prevent you from making software that sucks. In fact it might increase the odds of suckage, since it gives you powerful skills to make something, but little understanding of how many factors contribute to making something good. A specialized degree gives you little awareness of the skills you don’t have.

When you’re building products, technology is the mean, not the goal.