But what about soul?

Written by Yaron Schoen February 1, 2013

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It is recommended to build your web app on solid infrastructure. If you sit on a chair and it breaks, no one will mention how pretty its shade of brown is. So obviously if your site is down every other day, no one will praise the beauty of its glossy buttons.

It is recommended to build your web app taking speed into account. If your train takes 10 hours to get from New York to Boston, people will quickly forget how comfortable the seats are. So obviously if it takes forever to upload an image to your site, no one will praise how easy it was to find the upload button.

It is recommended to build your web app taking screen size into account. If you go see an iMax movie, but sit in the first row to the right, you won’t be in awe of the special effects. So obviously if the only way to read an article on your mobile site is to scroll left and right to read each sentence, no one is going to praise your font choices.

It is recommended to build your web app taking content into account. If it isn’t crystal clear what you are selling in your 10 second commercial, no one will buy your product. So obviously if your site’s message is confusing, no one will sign up for your service.

It is recommended to build your web app taking usability into account. If your medicine can cure my illness, but I can’t figure out how to open the cap, no one will thank you for curing anything. So obviously if it's impossible to figure out how to use your service, no one will praise its purpose.

It is recommended to build your web app taking aesthetics into account. If your couch is extremely comfortable, but looks really disgusting, no one will want to sit on it. So obviously if your site is a serious publication, but you use Comic Sans, it’s going to be hard to take you seriously.

But what about soul?

I don't think we talk about that enough. Perhaps because it is so hard to define? Perhaps soul is all the above put together? I'm not sure.

This Steve Jobs quote speaks to me, especially when it comes to adding soul to your product.

When you set a vector off in space, and you change its direction a little bit in the beginning, it gets dramatic once it gets a few miles into space. We are still really at the beginning of that vector and if we can nudge it in the right directions it will be a much better thing as it progresses on.

Interviewer: How do you know what is the right direction?

You know, ultimately it comes down to taste. It comes down to trying to expose yourself to the best things that humans have done and then try to bring those things into what you are doing. You know, Picasso had a great saying, good artists copy, great artists steal. We have been shameless about stealing great ideas, and I think part of what made the Macintosh great was that the people working on it were musicians and poets and artists and zoologists and historians who also happen to be the best computer scientists in the world. But if it hadn't been for computer science these people would have been doing amazing things in life and other fields. But they all brought to this effort a very liberal arts attitude. We wanted to pull in the best that we saw from other fields into this field and I don’t think you get that if you are very narrow.

… so I don’t think that most of the really best people I’ve ever worked with, work with computers for the sake of working with computers. They work with computers because they are the medium that is best capable of transmitting some feeling that they have that they want to share with other people. If computers weren’t invented all these people would have been working on something else, but computers were invented and they realized this is the medium that I can say something in.

Using the proper techniques will always yield good results. But perhaps what turns a good product into a great one is the culture that is injected by the creator's soul and need for expression.

What does soul mean to you?

Written in New York. © 2013