Know Your Role! (But Fill in Where You're Needed)
  Posted June 25, 2003    PermaLink    Comments (0)  

Some discussion has been happening recently about programmers and GUI design. One particular thread had to do witht he bifurcation between what I will loosley call Graphics People and Coding People. Two overly broad generalizations I know, but when you are looking at the perspective of creating a UI for an application subtleties like database/build/swing coders and artists/layout/graphic designers. Sometimes it's good and sometimes it's bad. Jon Tirsen had a bit to say about this. What I want to blog about is specilization in the development process.

But first I'm going to start talking about some of the small details about the US Army. The Army has about a bajillion job assignments called MOSes. These range from combat roles like eliete special ops and calvary scout to support roles like MP, cook, and decontamination specialist. But despite all of these specialization all must go through the same basic training even though their advanced training is much different. One of the reasons for this is so you can expect some basic skills out of anyone wearing an army uniform, namly you can give them an M16 rifle and expect them to be able to use it with some basic proficiency. At the same time you aren't going to expect an Army Ranger to beable to act as an advocate at a court-marshal and you woudn't want an MP providing cover fire from an Apache LongBow. But when a defensive line falls and headquarters is under attack you want to be able to hand everyone in sight a rifle and have them defend the camp.

So how does this relate to GUI work? Code types and Graphic Types represent two broad specializations when it comes to making an application. Unfortionatly this can lead to what Jon wrote about where the specializations become a class segregation. Situations like that are definatly bad. However I don't think the world of total equivilence is a good realm to live in. There needs to be some form of specilization if for no other reason then some people are better at some things (through training or talent) than others. The people who know how to make a graphic design look essentialy the same across 4 different browsers probobly aren't the same people who know how to ensure the cache consistency of the data behind the page and how to prevent double posting of forms.

This generalization is a two edged sword however, you may need the graphics people and the data people to do stuff others specialize in occationally. Perhaps they are on vacation and a new icon needs to be made, or an HTML page needs to be re-done for new data. A coder type could do it if needed but given the choice a graphics type would be better. Perhaps a field on a form needs to accept a phone number with dashes in it but strip it to just numbers for the database before submission. A coder type may be perfect for that but perhaps he has some nasty synchronization bug he's dealing with so the graphics person has to do some text processing and data tricks.

More and more projects now a days are much to big for one person to possibly do everything even if time wasn't a factor. That's why we work in teams. Nearly all teams have specilized roles, but it is the effective team that knows when to live within those roles and when to step outside of them.

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