This is by Design

While the origins of this phrase are not clear, it is widely accepted that the most probable place to find it is in the support knowledge base of a well-known software company, which would have copyrighted it if she could. The reason this sentence cannot be effectively copyrighted is that it is an essential part of every software developer’s toolbox. Paying royalties for usage of this sentence will cause the entire software industry to go bankrupt.

This phrase usually refers to some unexpected or strange behavior of a software product. There are no formal records of an event where this sentence was used as a reply to praise on a cool new feature.

When a developer, or a manager for that matter, says: “this is by design?, he usually means one of the following:

  1. I don’t have the faintest clue regarding the cause of the problem.
  2. No one in the right mind would have released the product in that state so it must be intentional.
  3. I wish we really had a design (with a sigh).

In rare cases, the person using this phrase actually means “we held a big meeting with everyone involved in the project where we decided this strange and unexpected behavior is exactly what the user is expecting?. Surprisingly, even in these rare cases, no one seems to be bothered with the answer, so additional strange and unexpected design decisions are almost guaranteed.


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