The ‘new link between designer and developer’

I’m a bit late with this, but last weekend’s Slashdot discussion of this article on the ZDnet blog was interesting, if somewhat awe-inspiring in so far as some of the opinions expressed about designers (and the software development process in general) were breathtaking stupid.

Ever since I got preview of Expression and the wonders of XAML last year, I’ve been wondering about the effect of elevating UI design to the same (at least practical) level as writing executable code. I have to say that I’m rather mystified as to why so few – indeed apparently none – of my profession are running around screaming about it in some way or other. The ZDNet article put it pretty clearly I thought:

Just as the RIA has blurred the line between the web and the desktop, it is doing the same to the line between designers and developers

Nobody who has even thought about how to design RIAs (as opposed to write the code that realises them) would doubt this to be the case, but to call this a “new link” makes me realise quite how small my little corner of the software development universe actually is. The comments (a mere 69 of them) on the Slashdot post seem to confirm this: rampant confusion about what the word “design” or “designer” means; a world view that sees only developers and users involved in the creation process; a belief that subject-matter experience is the only qualification. It’s as if Alan Cooper never happened (…!).

So, altogether a sobering experience. But, the effect of Microsoft officially recognising the designer by offering a tool for them that can talk to Visual Studio is none the less highly significant. I just wonder why so few people seem to be interested. I for one am determined to watch this one rather closely – all the while thinking “Why the hell did it have to be Microsoft?”