User Experience Quotes

Dr. Mandel has collected a large number of user experience, interface design, usability and technology quotes. Enjoy them and share them!

If you have a favorite quote, please send it to me. I’ll list the quote, along with your name. e-mail me!


“The Internet? That thing is still around?”
Homer Simpson

“And the cost of making users happy? It is small if addressed early in the Web development lifecycle, she said. ‘If it costs $1 to make a change on paper, then it costs $10 in code and $100 when the site is up.”
Theresa Cunnington, ComputerWorld 2006

“Consider the decline in the quality and consistency of user interfaces. I look at the hideous UIs on many commercial applications and it’s obvious the interface was slapped together just so that the design tool would crank out the code for handling user events. The code was finished, but the barely capable UI went out the door with just a little polish.”
– Tom Yager, “Ahead of the Curve” Columnist, InfoWorld 2006

“It’s not good enough to just keep producing technology with no notion of whether it’s going to be useful. You have to create stuff that people really want, rather than create stuff just because you can.”
– Genevieve Bell, head of Intel’s USA User Experience Group
(in “Homing in on the Human Element”)

“The most common user action on a Web site is to flee.”
– Edward Tufte, Information Design Guru

The dumbest mistake is viewing design as something you do at the end of the process to ‘tidy up’ the mess, as opposed to understanding it’s a ‘day one’ issue and part of everything.”
– Tom Peters (Journal of Business and Design, Vol 6, No. 1)

“The main thing is that everything become simple, easy enough for a child to understand.”
– Albert Camus

“Just how do I design if not with prototyping? An excellent question. The short answer is ‘on paper’.”
– Alan Cooper (“Father of Visual Basic”)

We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are.
– The Talmud

“You already have zero privacy – get over it!”
– Scott McNealy, CEO and President, Sun Microsystems

“Among the IT professionals on today’s more innovative development teams are people you wouldn’t normally expect to find: psychologists, social scientists and, of all things, users!”
– Miryam Williamson

“For any business, large or small, not to have an e-commerce strategy is a big mistake.”
– William Daley, U.S. Secretary of Commerce

“Content will become more important than navigation. Content is the ‘there’ of navigation. It is the reason people go on the Net.”
– Jake Winebaum, Chairman, Disney’s Buena Vista Internet Group

“Our technical support division has become almost as big as our curriculum instruction division. It’s kind of alarming.”
– Paul Perotti, School Superintendent, Santa Clara, California

“An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field.”
– Niels Bohr
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“Usability is critical for any application, but for mass-market software, usability spells success or failure more clearly than any other feature.”
– Dr. Jerrold Grochow, Chief Technology Officer, American Management Systems

“There are only two things of importance. One is the customer, and the other is the product. If you take care of the customer, they come back. If you take care of product, it doesn’t come back.”
Stanley Marcus, Nieman Marcus

Make it idiot-proof and someone will make a better idiot.

“On a contract assignment, the owner of a small industrial control software company told me “We do not want our (end-user) documentation to be too clear. We make a lot of money doing training.”
– Anonymous Programmer

“I don’t think the Internet business is that unique in terms of losing money. We’ve been doing that in the retail business for a long time.”
– Mark Wattles, CEO, Hollywood Entertainment Corp.

“A glitzy web and unique product is not enough to be successful selling online. What it takes is superior customer service and a customer experience that provides unique value.”
– USA Today

“There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.”
– Ken Olson, President, Digital Equipment Corp. (1977)

“I think that I shall never see an ad so lovely as a tree.
But if a tree you have to sell, It takes an ad to do that well.”
– Jef I. Richards, Advertising Professor, University of Texas at Austin

“Measure twice, cut once.”
– Norm Abram, This Old House

“For each dollar a company invests in developing the usability of a product, the company receives $10-$100 in benefits and wins customer satisfaction and continued business. Furthermore, industry data shows that for each dollar spent to fix a problem during product design, $10 are spent to fix the same problem in product development, and $100 or more are spent to fix the same problem after product release.”
– Claire Marie Karat, “A business case approach to usability cost justification.” In, R. Bias and D. Mayhew, Eds. Cost-Justifying Usability, Academic Press, NY, 1994.

“Usability cost-benefit data shows that including usability in product development actually cuts the time to market and increases sales because usability and ease of use build quality into products and catch many expensive problems early on in the cycle when they can be addressed at lower cost. Finally, working with users from the beginning of a product cycle ensures that the product is being designed so that users will be satisfied.”
– Claire Marie Karat, “A business case approach to usability cost justification.” In, R. Bias and D. Mayhew, Eds. Cost-Justifying Usability, Academic Press, NY, 1994.

“There is nothing more dangerous than standing still in a world that is changing.”
– French President Jacques Chirac

The E-Rules
Rule 1: Technology is no longer an afterthought in forming business strategy, but the actual cause and driver.
Rule 2: The ability to streamline the structure, influence, and control of the flow of information is dramatically more powerful and cost-effective than moving and manufacturing physical products.
Rule 3: Inability to overthrow the dominant, outdated business design often leads to business failure.
Rule 4: The goal of new business designs is to create flexible outsourcing alliances between companies that not only off-load costs, but also make customers ecstatic.
– Ravi Kalakota and Marcia Robinson, e-Business: Roadmap for Success, 1999

I don’t understand the technology. But you don’t have to. You have to understand what it can do for you.
– Rupert Murdoch

In theory, practice and theory are identical. In practice, they are completely different!
– Anonymous

“Look at the statistics: Women make 85 percent of all buying decisions – that’s $25 billion of purchasing power. All of a sudden, we’re a really hot demographic – and we don’t buy the same way that men do.”
– Karan Eriksson, CEO, Women In Technology International (WITI)

“A bad web site is like a grumpy salesperson.”
– Jakob Nielsen, Web Usability Guru

“Buy stock in a company any idiot can run because, sooner or later, an idiot will end up running it.”
– Peter Lynch, Fidelity Magellan Fund

“How come all of a sudden I’m too stupid to learn?”
– 56-year-old Des Moines, Iowa, programmer, on high-tech firms’ efforts to increase visas for foreign workers
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“The average U.S. adult Internet user will spend 9.5 months of his life reading e-mail. The average U.S. adult without Net access will spend 4.7 years watching television.”
– Cyber Dialogue (April, 2000)

The significant problems we have cannot be solved with the thinking used to create them.
– Albert Einstein

Each goal that you set should be one step beyond others you have taken: it is better to aim for a star and hit a mountain, than to aim at the mud puddle and hit it every time.
– Rebecca Gates

“People need to know more than what a piece of information means. They also need to know how the information matters.”
– John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid

It’s hard to be faster than paper.
– Jeff Hawkins, CEO of PDA-maker Handspring (on the standard against which handheld applications are judged)

“Of the 1,173 people surveyed by Yankelovich Partners, 90 percent feel that the online privacy of personal data is the most important Internet shopping issue. Only 60 percent reported satisfaction with Internet privacy.”
– David Bersoff, Yankelovich Partners

“To design something really well you have to get it. You have to really grok what it’s all about. It takes a passionate commitment to thoroughly understand something — chew it up, not just quickly swallow it. Most people don’t take the time to do that. Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask a creative person how they did something, they may feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after awhile. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or have thought more about their experiences than other people have. Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. They don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions, without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better designs we will have.”
– Steve Jobs, Wired (March, 1996)

“Increasingly web developers are enamored of special effects and forgo the kind of simplicity that’s key for a good customer experience. Consumers come to the web for ease of use. Take that away from them and they’re not coming back.”
– Steve Telleen, Managing Director, Website ScoreCard, Giga Information Group

“These days, you can’t succeed as a company if you’re customer led — because in a world so full of so much constant change, consumers can’t anticipate the next big thing. Companies should be idea-led and customer informed.”
– Doug Atkin, Partner, Merkley Newman Harty

“The physicist’s greatest tool is his wastebasket.”
– Albert Einstein

“In the end, e-commerce had to sell things to real people, most of whom do not live in Silicon Valley, do not ‘get it’ and do not care.”
– Erik Gordon, MBA Programs Director, Un iv. of Florida

“You know you have achieved perfection in design, not when you have nothing more to add, but when you have nothing more to take away.”
– Antoine de Saint-Exupery

“By 2005, approximately two-thirds of Internet users worldwide will reside outside the United States. However, only about one-third of the top Web sites in the United States have made any globalization/international efforts.”
– Elizabeth Lamb, Red Herring, 1/30/2001

“Competition is a by-product of productive work, not its goal. A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others.”
– Ayn Rand, “The Moratorium on Brains”

“Any darn fool can make something complex; it takes a genius to make something simple.”
– Albert Einstein

“We have already gone so far down the road of serving computers that we’ve come to accept our servitude as necessary. It isn’t. It is time for us to rise up with a profound demand: “Make our computers simpler to use!” Make them talk to us, do things for us, get the information we want, help us work with other people, and adapt to our individual needs. Only then will computers make us productive and truly serve us, instead of the other way around.”
– Michael L. Dertouzos, Director, MIT Laboratory for Computer Science, in his book The Unfinished Revolution

“There was the old idea that if you had 1,000 monkeys and 1,000 typewriters, then in 1,000 years they would eventually write the complete works of Shakespeare. The Web proves that this is not true.”
– Kurt Vonnegut, in an interview on National Public Radio

“Numbers have a peculiar property – what they reveal is exciting but what they conceal is vital.”
– Unknown author

“Fortune 1000 companies each spend an average of $2 million per year on site redesigns, without knowing if the redesign made the site easier to use.”
– Forrester Research

“We fully expected every 13-year old kid with a browser to come visit.”
– Jon Ricker, CIO of Limited, which delayed the holiday launch of until it could prioritize paying customers over voyeurs (Wall Street journal)

“To design is much more than simply assemble, to order, or even to edit; it is to add value and meaning, to illuminate, to simplify, to clarify, to modify, to dignify, to dramatize, to persuade, and perhaps even to amuse.”
– Paul Rand, Artist and Architect

“Only 10 percent of the current Fortune 500 companies will survive the next 10 years. The rest will shrivel to a fraction of their former selves, because they won’t make a successful transition to the customer-centric web economy.
– Jakob Nielsen, in, “Designing Excellent Websites: Secrets of an Information Architect”

“You can use an eraser on the drafting table or a sledge hammer on the construction site.”
– Frank Lloyd Wright
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“The future has arrived, it’s just not evenly distributed yet.”
– William Gibson, Author

“The sooner you start to code, the longer the program will take.”
– Roy Carlson

“Computer science departments have always considered ‘user interface’ research to be sissy work.”
– Nicholas Negroponte, MIT

“User interfaces have to do with people, and computer scientists don’t like to work on problems involving people. The classic work on user interfaces that sets the current paradigm was invented outside of universities in industrial research laboratories and government-funded institutes.”
– Stuart Card, Xerox PARC

“The old days when we could just go into the back room and develop technology for the DOD are gone. Now we’re developing technology for my mother, and that requires a whole new set of skills.”
– Peter Denning, George Mason University Computer Science Chairman

“For years, computer scientists were treating operating systems design as sort of an open-reserch issue, when the field’s direction had been decided by commercial operations. Computer science has become completely cut off from reality.”
– David Gelernter, Yale Computer Science Professor

“…before the Internet in its modern sense, before the explosion of email, before systems had been accumulating files for a decade. Today the desktop is just crazily obsolete. We would consider it ridiculous for people to be routinely driving around in 20-year-old automobiles. Why are we doing it with user interface?”
– David Gelernter, Yale Computer Science Professor

“Every now and then, Lifestreams helps you manage information transactions that you really wouldn’t have been able to do any other way. But mainly, Lifestreams cuts down the friction. It makes life less of a nuisance. It makes the overhead go away. And really, the only thing that matters to a person in the end is to have the time – the little time that he’s got – and use it the way he wants. That’s the whole objective right there: not wasting time.”
– David Gelernter, Yale Computer Science Professor

“Computing has gone from something tiny and specialized to something that affects every walk of life. It doesn’t make sense anymore to think of it as just one discipline. I expect to see separate departments of user interface, for example, to start emerging at universities.”
– Nathan Myhrvold, Microsoft Technology Guru

“Planning is an unnatural process; it is much more fun to do something. The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression.”
– Sir John Harvey-Jones

“One bad experience and poof…customers are history. Sure, you can replace them, but at five times the cost.”
– Pavvo Hanninen, Director, University of Alabama

“Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”
– Donald Rumsfield, 13th and 21st Secretary of Defense

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