RE: Usable Specs?

Subject: RE: Usable Specs?
From: Bill Burns <BillDB -at- ILE -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Mon, 25 Oct 1999 09:14:58 -0600

> (Note: Where as Yourdon would call "Remove the Staples" a function and
> Hackos would call the same a task, they are both the same thing --
> noun/verb
> comibinations describing WHAT is being done within the manual and/or
> computerized system under consideration.)
Sounds like an excellent idea, but I've never seen one of these in practice,
and I don't ever expect to see one. Most of the programmers I work with are
against unrealsitic deadlines as it is, and they don't want to "waste" time
writing a spec of any kind, much less one as rigorous as what you describe.
I could see the value, though. If a developer can describe how an app will
be used, the developer will learn where his or her application needs
attention (that is, all those tasks that are difficult to document).

> I must admit, I have not seen nor do I know about an animal called a UI
> spec. Having said that, a spec that (only) describes how the software
> works
> behind the UI (the other spec that you mention) will not be effective
> because it is not end user focused.
Well, this is the crux of it for me. There's an obvious advantage of having
a user-centered design. However, do you mean that an end user should be able
to use the software spec to learn the application? I guess I don't see that
as a software spec. The software specs we see (that is, those that document
how the software works behind the UI) are so designers understand the
underlying architecture--not so they know how the thing will look or how
users will interact with it. The developers are focused on getting the app
to talk to devices. A different developer worries about how users access the
features. It's probably not a common model, but it's the one I've
encountered most recently.

So I don't have a problem with Yourdon's idea. I've just never seen it in
practice, and I haven't seen an environment conducive to that level of
software specification by SW developers. At the same time, I'm actively
pursuing contracts to provide SW documentation services to our clients so we
can do just what you recommend.

Bill Burns - Eccentric Technology Consultant
International Communications Design & Development
billdb -at- ile -dot- com
Y2K Complacent

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