Bob Frankston's recipes for a product that users will love

by Jacek Artymiak

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Bob's account of how VisiCalc was implemented teaches us an important lesson in product design. It's a classic that every developer ought to read and come back to whenever he/she thinks that the users are complaining about petty silly little things.

"Working with online systems we deployed the program by simply giving others access and could quickly evolve the program as we learned how it was actually used. The process worked best when we were also users."

"The goal was to give the user a conceptual model which was unsurprising -- it was called the principle of least surprise."

"In addition to prototyping, Dan put together a reference card for users. If we couldn't figure out how to explain a feature on the reference card we would change the program. The original method for copying formulas was too complicated so we just changed the design rather than try to explain it."