Publishing vs. Software

That Jesse James Garret chapter really crystallized it for me – I’m a publishing guy trying to do software.

In Chapter 2 of his Elements of User Experience (.pdf), Garrett says the web grew out of two traditions: 1) The world of software design and 2) The publishing / media / blogging world.

“One group saw every problem as an application design problem, and applied problem-solving approaches from the traditional desktop and mainframe software worlds. (These, in turn, were rooted in common practices applied to creating all kinds of products, from cars to running shoes.) The other group saw the Web in terms of information distribution and retrieval, and applied problem-solving approaches from the traditional worlds of publishing, media, and information science.”

I’m a former reporter, so I come very firmly from the publishing side of the biz. But a lot of the challenges I face right now aren’t writing challenges so much as software challenges.

My current white whale is an online catalog for our college. To solve this problem, I need to lay out a series of web controls which allow users to manipulate the information so they can make an informed decision. So what I’m trying to create is less like a traditional college catalog (aka a book), and more like an e-commerce application. My favorite design inspiration is Stark Bros Nurseries & Orchards.

To be sure, this also involves wrangling a lot of content. But to be successful, it has to work like a great piece of software.


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