Who Made My Phone Do THIS?!
Mike Overby’s piece is primarily about mobile apps, but could equally be applicable to websites and services:
I’ve had these thoughts before, as it’s a mindset Human-Computer Interaction material tries to teach against. With interviews and rapid prototyping and personas, you’re supposed to figure out at an astronomically granular level what your customer really needs, trusting the process will filter out the nice-to-haves and needless impossibilities. However, even that approach ultimately descends from [Steve] Jobs because the result is a monolithic piece of software that does everything the user is designated as needing to do by you, the designer. In the end, you know best, apparently. Who are you to make that final determination? Who are you to, ultimately and inevitably, stand in the way of their feature requests because you won’t or can’t or can’t want to build it? When did computer programs become write-once?
Perhaps it’s been that way ever since we stopped assuming that the people who used our software could learn to adapt it for their own purposes. We don’t teach people how to use computers anymore. We teach people how to accept guidance by computers designed for others’ purposes. At work, the computer is not a tool for a worker’s use; the computer is an automation tool suited to the boss’s goals. At our leisure, that boss becomes whoever is using the software to collect our data, and that software is designed with their goals in mind.