Too Much New Software, Too Many New Libraries, Even for the Nerds


I’ve been learning d3 and it’s been a fantastic learning experience. It’s a low-level javascript library for making interactive visualizations–including maps–inside SVGs for nifty client-side rendering effects of datasets that can be updated easily with new data. Incidentally, Scott Murray’s book Interactive Data Visualization for the Web is a fantastic first resource full of the most important bits to know and written in an accessible style.

So that’s been great, yes. But even the nerdiest among us have their limits to how much of their day, their week, or even their year, they can jam with brand-new material. And that leads me to my thesis, which is that when you are designing a new product or a new library or a new software, keep in mind that it isn’t just your computer laypersons who have to leap a mental hurdle to even begin working with your product, it’s also people who have just simply saturated their number of “new things” that they can handle that week or that month, even if they are supremely computer-savvy individuals who would really have very little trouble with your product.

In product design teams, the engineers and managers all have a tendency to think about the lowest common denominator when designing, and that’s certainly not a bad thing. But the computer scientists among us hit their limits from time to time too. So you’re not just in the business of making things simple for the newbies, your making your product easy to adopt by everyone.

My forays into d3 came at a time when I was granted a few hours of paid time to work on it, and that helped. It also came at a time when I was ready to really dive into something new. Don’t count on that being the case for all your users.

As usual I’ve reached the end of my little thesis statement with a feeling that it could be argued in the opposite direction as well (the downside of being analytical). So if you’d like to argue the opposite please go for it. And keep in mind the goal here: giving the best advice for teams building brand-new products as well as individuals who are building brand-new tools and libraries.



  1. #1 by Nathan Saylor on July 29, 2015 - 5:07 am


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