Principles for Better Software

Joseph Cohen
Aug 20, 2014 · 2 min read

It’s the most exciting time ever to work with computers but the digital world is still awfully primitive. Here are some ways we can make internet software better:

Empowering

For most people software is a consumptive experience, when it could (and should) be a creative one. People must make the internet. But lately the internet has started to feel corporate and predictable, like a mall or television. That needs to change.

Educational

Good software should act like a supportive coach. You should push it, it should push you. It shouldn’t assume you know how to use an esoteric language. It shouldn’t make you feel stupid. It should inspire and motivate.

Free

…as in speech. While software from Apple, Facebook, and Twitter has made the internet easier to use, it has restricted our freedom. All Apps must be approved from the Mothership. Facebook heavily limits self expression to confined text fields. There is no empirical tradeoff between good design and open software. Corporations shouldn’t sensor the internet.

Mindful

Incessant notifications are not the future. A connected mind is not a distracted mind. We need to design software that calms and strengthens.

Living

The digital world isn’t as rich as the physical one—yet. With touch screens and loads of sensors, we have the opportunity to improve that. How do we create software that engages all of our senses? How can we make software that feels alive? Visual over textual, animated over static, responsive over dull.

Convenient

Software removes tedium. It allows to work with ideas, to be creative. Good software takes minimum intent and converts it into a thing or action. But too many things online are still annoying and difficult. It’s still too hard to find a good place to eat, to keep track of your passwords, and even to program.

Trust

As more of our life shifts to the internet, we need to trust it. Not everything online should be public. Financials, diaries, family photos—they need to be safe online.

Fun

There was a time when computers were only for nerds. Now everyone is online. Software should be entertaining, delightful. It should make you smile. It should make you want more.


Good software, like good books, won’t just happen. The internet is built by us — and it can be as glorious as we want it to be.

    Joseph Cohen

    Written by

    CEO @ Universe

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