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Worse is Better

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

Worse is Better is a software design principle that states that software quality is not wholly dependent on the number features of functions and that less is often more. The principle is also known as the New Jersey Style and was created by Richard P. Gabriel in his MIT paper The Rise of Worse is Better.

Worse is Better advocates for software that is simple and easy to understand over software that is heavy with functions, features or options, resulting a product that is difficult to understand. The design principle aims to increase the focus and quality of the product and avoid problems like feature creep.

The Rise of Worse is Better highlights four central characteristics of the principle:

  • Simplicity – refers to ease of implementation and, more importantly, a simple interface.
  • Correctness – refers to the necessity of the design to be discernibly correct and without any errors.
  • Consistency – refers to the design’s overall uniformity, which is more important that simplicity and completeness and equally important as correctness.
  • Completeness – refers to the idea that a design should provide a whole experience, with all expected variables covered. However, completeness should not be lessened to increase simplicity.

Richard P. Gabriel contended that software developed under this model is more successful than software developed under the traditional MIT model. Although the goal of the Worse is Better philosophy is software that is of better quality and easier to develop, it can be used to excuse a lack of functionality that is expected in a program.

This was last updated in November 2018

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