The Wall Street Journal published an article on why many software hiring tools are hurting the US economy.
You can read the article here.
Or if you want the part that's relevant to my post today, it's this bit that caught my attention:
"A Philadelphia-area human-resources executive told Mr. Cappelli that he applied anonymously for a job in his own company as an experiment. He didn't make it through the screening process."
He had these problems because of the software.
I have 15ish years in software design, development, and management, and I am constantly amazed at the lack of basic concepts understood by some companies and engineers, to say nothing of my fellow managers.
Now, this isn't a business blog, so how does this relate to tabletop gaming?
Part of usability - just like most production activities - is knowing the audience. Who are the users? What do they need?
In the world of tabletop gaming, users are creative folk with lots of unique ideas. Publishing a tool - such as a character creator - that doesn't allow for expression of unique ideas is not friendly to the tool's primary market segment.
When an HR professional complains that, out of a thousand applicants, not a single one is qualified, then the software (and the company) have failed. Completely. (Also, many companies need to learn that missing 1 out of 100 skills doesn't mean "unqualified")
When a roleplayer complains that they can't add a custom spell or a custom religion to their character creator program, then the program and the company have also failed.
One of the reasons I find that MapTool works so well, for instance, is because it doesn't impose a lot of restrictions. Sure, you can move through walls. Turns out you can do that on the tabletop, too, and it doesn't make it any more legal. What MapTool recognizes - either on purpose or by accident - is that every so often in an RPG, you need to be able to move through a wall. Therefore, you can't code restrictions with walls unless you also have options that let GMs & players get around that restriction.
In the world of character creators, I don't have much use for software that lets me pick a Religion, but doesn't let me enter my own Religion. I don't have much use for selecting spells if I can't enter the cool new spell my GM plopped out of his arse in the last session.
Spreadsheets, word documents, and interactive PDF files will remain superior - for me - until software development teams at tabletop companies can appreciate these fundamental requirements. Although to be honest, I truly prefer a pencil and a nice sheet of paper anyways. Part of me wonders if computers sometimes get in the way of the tabletop experience too much.
And if character creation is so complicated that noone can create a mathematically accurate toon without software, then something else is wrong entirely, that has nothing to do with software.
It's all about fundamental design.
People are individuals, so any hiring software needs to include that in the design. Likewise, characters are individuals - a character I make tomorrow will, in some way, be different than any other character ever made, and for software to be useful, it must take that into consideration.