Options are expensive

August 15, 2005

Every time you add an option to your application, take some advice from Greg Hudson and Joel Spolsky:

  1. “Options are expensive”, they “increase the required testing load of a program, they increase complexity, they decrease the consistency of the program’s behavior, and they intimidate and confuse users.”

  2. “Pull up the Tools Options dialog box and you will see a history of arguments that the software designers had about the design of the product.”

  3. “Every time you provide an option, you’re asking the user to make a decision.”

  4. “It has been said that design is the art of making choices. … When you are designing, and you try to abdicate your responsibility by forcing the user to decide something, you’re probably not doing your job. Someone else will make an easier program that accomplishes the same task with less intrusions, and most users will love it.”

  5. “The trouble with customizing your environment is that it just doesn’t propagate, so it’s not even worth the trouble.”

Note: Originally posted to my Synop blog on December 18, 2003.