Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Fast Software, the Best Software

Craig Mod:

It feels — intuitively — that software (beyond core functionality) should aim for speed. Speed as a proxy for efficiency. If a piece of software is becoming taurine-esque, unwieldy, then perhaps it shouldn’t be a single piece of software. Ultimately, to be fast is to be light. And to be light is to lessen the burden on someone or some task. This is the ultimate goal: For our pocket supercomputers to lesson burdens, not increase them. For our mega-powered laptops to enable a kind of fluency — not battle, or struggle — of creation.

This essay speaks to me on a gut level; I’m sure many of you will have a similar appreciation for it.

Mod’s essay is positive and delightful. I will say — in a more negative and grouchy tone — that slow software invariably irritates me, in a very thousand cuts kind of way. I use Windows at work and I wince every time I click on the Start menu and have to wait for the second-long superfluous render-blocking animation to play. Some of the very slow animations in tvOS make me feel the same way — for example, when exiting the screen saver. Don’t get me wrong — animation adds expected polish — but it should not be an impediment.

Slow software feels imprecise and untrustworthy. Fast software feels implicitly more reliable and cared-for. I have a top-of-the-line iMac; not only should I not feel sluggishness in any day-to-day task, everything ought to feel instantaneous. I wish this were a higher priority for all software firms at an organizational level. For me, at least, it determines what I use.