Thoughts on Quality

I seek people who value quality as its own reward. I appreciate those who think that a job well done is not just “nice to have” but a mark of honesty, integrity and the producer’s self-worth. Behind every published word, every implemented design and every piece of running code, there is a body of knowledge, experience and decisions that imbues the final product with its quality and value. Those who don’t care about the quality of those published words and running code therefore necessarily don’t care about the value of the final product they are creating.

An investment in quality is certainly not the only way to create things—there are myriad examples of miserable products that are financially successful—but it’s the way I prefer to create things. A creation that is not only successful, but delights its users with its ease of use and practicality, is an accomplishment to be proud of. I am interested not only in providing inestimable value to people who are striving to produce their own goods and services, but also in improving the sum of happiness and clarity in the marketplace and thus the world at large.

Great products don’t just let people accomplish things more quickly, those products actually improve their users’ mood and disposition toward everything and everyone else those people interact with. Happiness and kindness are unmistakably contagious, and as such, should be cultivated and encouraged whenever possible. The person who uses half-broken and frustrating technology is far more likely to be agitated and discourteous to those he interacts with than the person who is able to achieve her ends with minimal interference and occasional delight. Every product that a person uses throughout his day—from his shampoo bottle to his shoelaces to his car stereo—affects his life in a very immediate and tangible way. The best products will allow most people to use them quickly and successfully before the product deftly disappears into the background. These are products I like to create.

One’s first instinct might be to only see consumer products in this light, as it isn’t quite as clear how the quality of, say, a piece of code would affect a software product’s end users. The difference here is simple: the users of the code aren’t the end users of the product; they are the programmers who have to work with the code every day. The happiness of the programmers is directly affected by the quality of the code, even if the frustration is sometimes latent and chronic rather than immediately obvious. Just as with a poorly designed shampoo bottle or a computer application that intermittently crashes, poorly written code, even if “it works just fine” for the end users, will make life worse for the programmers who have to maintain it.

I do my best to make my small corner of the world that much better by keeping my standards high. I refuse to write or accept sloppy code just as I refuse to punish the users of my products with a poor experience. I am most interested in meeting and talking with other people who share my passion for quality. I’d like to better understand both the varied backgrounds of people who care about quality and new and better methods for raising the bar and delivering even better products.

Originally published:
June 06, 2009

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