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I was just talking to my partner about how hard it is to personally judge how good your product is after a while because you use it so often. You literally spend hours on your computer doing nothing but work on this "consumer facing" application, and you start to feel a little fatigue of using it over and over and over, at least a hundred times a day. You get scared this fatigue may mean the product you are building may have the same effect on the users and might mean you are doing something wrong.

Is there a name for this in product development? For the fact that as a designer+ programmer+everything else, your product might not suck as much as you think simply because you spend way too much time with it, or a variation of this?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by MichaelT, GlenH7, Kilian Foth, gnat, Bart van Ingen Schenau Aug 29 at 18:29

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

This might be a question for english.stackexchange.com –  George Duckett Oct 18 '12 at 10:20
@George Duckett I only put it here because it was a question directed specifically to programmers who have been through the development cycle and can understand and actually be able to answer this question. Other then that i'd say you're right :) –  Sammy Guergachi Oct 19 '12 at 3:02

6 Answers 6

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...can't see the forest for the trees is one common English phrase that describes an inability to see the big picture because you're paying too much attention to the parts.

biased is a good word for succinctly describing a lack of objectivity.

For the fact that as a designer+ programmer+everything else, your product might not suck as much as you think simply because you spend way too much time with it

Much more often, your product will suck more than you think it does. As the developer, you'll have an intimate familiarity with the way the product works, so the product makes perfect sense to you. Things that seem obvious to you will be downright perplexing to newcomers. Your preconceptions will cause you to miss huge bugs; you'll show the product to a new user and your jaw will drop when they do things with it that you never thought of, and that you never tested.

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thats a nice perspective. Thank you! –  Sammy Guergachi Oct 19 '12 at 2:47

I'd call it a variation of "Tester Fatigue". "Dog food Fatigue" maybe? I've read and heard of similar situations being particularly prevalent in game development.

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Programmer Bias is the term I believe.

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As a composer (of music) I've come across this with every single piece I've composed, and I'm assuming it comes with the territory of being in any creative field. What happens is you "live with" this thing (a piece of music, a novel, a product) for far, far longer than most of your audience, and lose perspective. It starts to seem like crap to you only because you know all of its tricks and they are not amusing to you anymore (like watching a magician all day for weeks on end).

While I can't tell you specifically what it's called, I can give you some advice which may or may not be practical: work on more than one thing at a time and move on to something else when you start feeling this way. It helps to put some space between (for me, one to three weeks). When you come back to it after working on something else you will remember a little bit of what it's like to have that initial spark that prompted you to start the project in the first place, the same spark that your users will feel whenever they use it after moving from product to product (piece to piece, film to film, etc.).

However, even this strategy wears off after a while, but hopefully long after the product has been released.

And the other side of this is Caleb's answer. You might not recognize just how unintuitive something can seem to someone who hasnt lived with this thing like you have. The above advice works for Both cases, though. And if you can't afford to take that kind of a break, then you have to bring outsiders in to critique your work. That's exactly what novelists, playwrights, and others do in situations like this.

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Thanks thats really helpful advice. I'll keep it in mind. –  Sammy Guergachi Oct 19 '12 at 2:48

Two common phrases, with different meanings, are:

  • "eating your own dog food", which is good because it means you are (trying to be) customer #1 for your product, and
  • "drinking your own bathwater", which means you are just talking to your inner circle, who are all saying The Right Things®, meaning you have no outside input.

So, "dog food" = good, "bathwater" = bad.

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I have heard the expression "familiarity breeds blindness" - I believe this describes the phenomenon fairly well. (No idea who said it first.)

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