Korea and the Three Aspects of Software Design

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Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

Software is not just a simple commodity, despite the fact that you can go to the store and buy software in little boxes. It is more like frozen expertise, wrapped up in a neat little package. It is also a type of communication, and a work of art. And while Korea has no lack of expertise, the country struggles with both international communication and fostering art. In order to become internationally successful in software design, in accordance with the Korean government's latest nationwide push, companies within Korea must learn to value all three of these aspects, rather than just the one.

If hardware is the tools you use to do something, software is the methods in which you use those tools. A pile of hammers and saws is not enough to make a house. Add a second pile of stone and lumber and it is still not enough. You need skilled laborers to take all those materials and make your house for you. With computers, there is one significant difference - you can separate the skill from the person by putting it into software. When you buy a piece of software for a specific purpose, you get a codified set of rules and best-practices that the leading technical minds in the field use to make excellent products. And here in the country where a college education is a simple prerequisite for life, there is no shortage of expertise on any number of subjects. Korea has this part locked down. Any software that is made in Korea will definitely have a high level of codified skill written into it.

But the complex software of today has another aspect, which is communication. A mature software product does not sit idly by and wait for commands from an expert - it actively communicates with its users to aid them to achieve their goals and help them to become experts if they are not yet at that level. This is usually accomplished through tutorials and help features that are integrated into the software experience itself. So not only is software expertise, but it is also communication. The creators of the software try to communicate with users to tell them how it all works. However, communication is an area in which Korea struggles. The country as a whole has long wrestled with the bear of international communication. This struggle has many complex factors involved with no easy solution in sight, but something must be done before the software industry can be truly competitive.

The third facet of software is the design. All software should be displayed on a 2D screen for people to understand, but the way it looks and the way it acts are totally up to the software designers. Presenting the software's abilities and options should be done in an aesthetically-pleasing way so that a user will not only be able to understand what's going on at all times, but also enjoy the experience. That is where the art comes in. Pleasing aesthetics are the third essential aspect of modern software. But in Korea, designers and artists have long been looked upon with less esteem than in other countries' industries. Many times designers complain that they are simple mouse-wranglers, only following strict orders from their superiors, unable to contribute their own creativity to the project. However, if Korea wants to be successful in software, they must pay more attention to their artists and designers.

So to create successful software in today's international market, you need the best expertise, the clearest communication, and the most aesthetically-pleasing art to come together in a coherent whole. Weaving those three aspects together into a successful product is like writing and conducting orchestral music, not such an easy task. It needs talent, and skill, and understanding in equal measure. Since the Korean government is now trying to foster is nascent software industry and make it an internationally-competitive industry, it should also work to bring harmony to these three aspects of software design to achieve these goals.

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