Software design is a technique, not a technology

Technology is different to technique. Technique is an art or skill. Technology literally translates from its origins as 'know-how'. Technique is the human expression of that know-how.

A beautifully performed jazz standard is an example of technique. The piano it is performed on is the technology.

The art of software design

Take this example screen shot of a user interface. It certainly uses a lot of technology such as HTML 5 and AJAX. But is it the optimal design?

How will users respond to this interface? How do we know when the software experience is perfectly expressed?

The trap which software developers fall into is assuming that software design methodology is a technology, probably because they work with technology all day long. After all, software design methodology feels like an engineering process, and an engineering process is just another technology.

Of course, the user reaction to the UI can be elicited and perhaps even measured in a scientific way. But when the user says "The whole thing just doesn't feel right.", there is no engineering process which can understand that sentiment. It requires an approach that calls on the skill — the technique — of a software designer. Delivered through the proficient use of technology, but expressed as technique, not technology.

Cartesian Creative's motto 'Art and science collides' recognises that there is a natural tension which exists between technology and technique. The science of technology is fastidious measurement, improvement and further measurement. The art of technique is insight, creative inspiration and further insight.

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