Paul Graham on Usability

Paul Graham has a new article titled How to Start a Startup, which is an excellent article for hackers who are interested in business. There’s lots of gems in there, but I particularly liked this one:

It’s worth trying very, very hard to make technology easy to use. Hackers are so used to computers that they have no idea how horrifying software seems to normal people. Stephen Hawking’s editor told him that every equation he included in his book would cut sales in half. When you work on making technology easier to use, you’re riding that curve up instead of down. A 10% improvement in ease of use doesn’t just increase your sales 10%. It’s more likely to double your sales.

Maybe Graham can get through to hackers where Jakob Neilsen and other usability experts have failed. That one paragraph is a concise summary of a point that Neilsen has been trying to advocate for years: spend the time and money on improving your software’s usability, and it’ll turn out to be a net profit.

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