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  1. 1
    Lawrence Krubner

    The attack by Sharma is unfair. Every point that Sharma raises in the letter is addressed by Neilsen. Neilsen states, up front, that India and China and Russia have some tremendously talented programmers. Neilsen also agrees the economic benefits of going oversears are great. Neilsen only says that the overseas countries won’t be able to train enough useability experts to staff the projects they predict they will get. His math seems straight forward. He mentions two problems, and one he stresses is temporary.

    It’s as if Sharma didn’t even read the article. Sharma is concerned that Neilsen should suggest that overseas developers can only develop for their own cultures, as if the idea that overseas programmers would be designing for an American audience had never occurred to Neilsen. But clearly, reading Neilsen’s article, Neilsen was aware that overseas programmers would be working for American companies on American projects. This, in Neilsen’s point of view, was the problem: he feels that the connection between the developers and useabilty experts needs to be extremely close.

  2. 2
    Paul Nattress

    I’ve worked on projects where the coding was outsourced offshore and have experienced no end of problems. One such problem has nothing to do with usability or the talent of the coders. There is a five hour time difference between the UK and India which, when faced with a deadline, can leave our team in the UK sitting around all day waiting for India to wake up and start working. Any feedback we do has to be done in a short time window in order for the offshore team to take on the comments and make any amendments. Any queries by the offshore team also have to wait a few hours (or even have to wait to the next working day) before being answered. As you can imagine, this affects deadlines.

    Another issue is that it is not at all convenient to place a member of your own team in the same office as the coding team. If our code is being written in London then this is quite easy, but if it’s in India then it’s a no-go. We find it invaluable for a usability expert to sit with the coders and go through the functionality with them and explain usability problems as they occur on screen. Any written usability assessments are always open to interpretation and, along with the language barrier (which is not a huge issue by itself but can contribute to misunderstandings in unambiguously written documents) can cause situations where a usability problem has been “fixed” in the wrong way. Obviously, better communication on both sides can go a long way to preventing this type of problem but better communication comes about from face to face discussion. Sending usability reports to non-usability minded coders and expecting them to fully understand all of the heuristics behind the points raised is a tall order. Having a usability expert sit down with the coding team and explain them and listen to questions and provide feedback is an amazing and rewarding experience.

    I don’t think that a lack of usability expertise is the main problem with offshore development (we all too often find a lack of usability expertise – and even usability appreciation – with some of London’s top web agencies) but rather the problem is the difficulties faced when working closely with a team thousands of miles and several time zones away.

    Evangelising usability is hard enough when you’re working with a designer or coder on your own team. Evangelising effectively over long distance, across time zones and language barriers, is nothing short of miraculous.

  3. 3
    Paul Nattress

    Sorry – in the following sentence “which is not a huge issue by itself but can contribute to misunderstandings in unambiguously written documents” I meant “ambiguously” not “unambiguously”. Makes a lot more sense now I think!


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