Wil Shipley writes about the compromised perfection we must strive for in order to provide users an experience that meets their human expectations:
“Classic computer programming has largely failed, because it failed to copy nature. Nothing in nature works 100% of the time, but it sure works well MOST of the time – and when it fails, well, you die and get replaced. A human being, for instance, is an absolutely amazing machine, and is provably NOT provably correct.”
I particularly like the example in the second half, having to do with smartly interpreting a typed ISBN numbers for product search. How do you strip the meaningless dashes from a search term, except when they’re utterly meaningful? This kind of thinking is important to fine-tuning an application. Nobody will appreciate the hours you spent laboring over the question, but for some reason they’ll just think your product is particularly awesome.
It’s interesting that the pursuit of perfection in an application has to involve the pursuit of compromise. By solving a problem in a way that degrades gracefully to unsolvable, you offer a happy, possibly even surprise solution to many people who would not otherwise expect one.