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Joel on Software

2002/09/17

by Joel Spolsky
Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Jakob Nielsen on Offshore Usability: "To save costs, some companies are outsourcing Web projects to countries with cheap labor. Unfortunately, these countries lack strong usability traditions and their developers have limited access -- if any -- to good usability data from the target users."

Offshore usability is a specific case of the general "offshore design" problem. Put simply, software teams are not successful when design or management are done in a different physical location than programming. Once I actually had a job where I was in New York, my direct manager was in Singapore, his manager was in Hyderabad, and if I needed any management input I had literally no choice but to go to the CEO because at least he was awake during the same hours as I was. You can't get things done like this. A good project team relies on hundreds of small interactions a day. Here in the Fog Creek offices, we have 10 small conversations about FogBUGZ 3.0 development every day.

What I don't understand is people who think it's OK to move the developers ten time zones away from their managers and expect good results. Those same people would scream bloody murder if you told them that you were going to send the whole management team to Bangalore or Beijing.


Have you been wondering about Distributed Version Control? It has been a huge productivity boon for us, so I wrote Hg Init, a Mercurial tutorial—check it out!

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About the author.

I’m Joel Spolsky, co-founder of Fog Creek Software, a New York company that proves that you can treat programmers well and still be highly profitable. Programmers get private offices, free lunch, and work 40 hours a week. Customers only pay for software if they’re delighted. We make Trello, which lets you organize anything, together, FogBugz, enlightened issue tracking software for bug tracking, and Kiln, which provides distributed version control and code reviews. I’m also the co-founder and CEO of Stack Exchange. More about me.

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