Architecture and Usability.

When I’m not designing software, I have an interest in modern architecture. Specifically public spaces and buildings. I’m fascinated at the materials and designs which have been put into place.

In my mind, observing good architecture helps me consider good usability. How people move around, where the entrance and exit is, how easy is it to navigate? How welcoming is the space?

An architect is an essential part to planning buildings however although an architect is used in software this is only the foundations.

The roles in building management are;

Architect – responsible the design of a building or space, they interface with structual engineers to ensure that the designs are structually sound. The architect is responsible for checking the work carried out to ensure that it meets the design(s).

Project Manager – often the main contractor, the project manager is responsible for the schedule and the delivery of the project

Builder/Contractor – responsible for building, rendering, painting. Their quality is regarded but they follow the design outlined by the Architect.

Buildings unlike software have to meet specific standards, and need to be signed off. Main contractors and Project managers often provide feedback to Architects during the build.

When building software (via an agency) the roles are;

Product Manager (specification) – responsible for the design of the software, the functionality, the user design, interacts with UX engineers, software architects and test engineers. (a proxy project sponsor)

Project Manager – takes the ownership of the project and often instructs the team

Architect – sets the foundations, frameworks. Leads the way (technically).

Developer / UI Designer – responsible for building the software.

To summarise

In software an architect has a different role, its closer to that of a structural engineer. That skill is concerned about whether its sound. Not whether its usable.

The product manager / owner has the responsibility of the vision, but they have to share this vision with the Project Manager, Architect, and Developers to succeed, especially if they don’t have an active role in the project.

The product manager however doesn’t have planning applications or building control, they are on their own.  It’s the product owners responsibility to consider how people will use the software, how they interact, and how it will work. Rushing this step is like building a house without an architect – it will be functional, but you may end up with odd spaces, and something that doesn’t quite flow as you’d hoped.

Buildings with good architecture make me want to come back. This also applies to good software.

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