Why Software Sucks…and what you can do about it (Book Review)

Author David Platt was designated by Microsoft to be a Software Legend. He also is an experienced programmer and consultant who has also taught at the Harvard University Extension School. 

Why Software Sucks is an insightful and fun read especially if you are not offended by the often irreverent and outrageous nature of the humor in the book. This is one of the less outrageous jokes from the book.   

  1. How many Microsoft tech-support guys does it take to change a light bulb?
  2. I’m afraid we can’t reproduce your problem. All the light bulbs here are working fine.

Chapter titles include Who Are You Calling Dummy, Tangle in the Web, and Ten Thousand Geeks Crazed on Jolt Cola. The general content of the Why Software Sucks provides insight on why many software programs are hard to figure out and use. 

Sometimes programs seem to crash at the worst possible time. Sometimes programs cause a user to lose information. The author also explains why web sites can be user hostile. Examples come from starbucks.com, MS Word, and ups.com. On the other hand, a good site is google.com

The author notes that many U.S. companies did not improve cars until customers demanded it by buying reliable Hondas and Toyotas. The author also notes that what a user can do includes:

  1. Read reviews before buying.
  2. Provide reviews to help others.
  3. Provide feedback as programmers may not know what is wrong.

Why Software Sucks is a good read for someone who wants to broaden their understanding of usability. What can help is to understand that programmers are not users. Usability testing should be a necessity and not an afterthought. A lack of usability testing can make the end result unusable.

Jeanette Evans

Note to readers: A version of this review is scheduled to appear in Technical Communication (the scholarly journal of the STC).