Developers Out Of Reach

Posted By: Tony Baird

Last Updated: Wednesday March 31, 2010

Last week my Brother asked me if he could use my credit card to buy a new phone online since his no longer worked.  I don’t like using my credit card anywhere but on my computer so he came over so we could do it on my computer.  We started the process of taking advantage of a web only offer for the new phone he wanted.  We got to the checkout and were surprised to find a strange repeating screen about being a foreign customer (we were not).  So we tried a few browsers and both my ISP’s and same thing happened.  Eventually though in Internet Explorer we received a javascript error then checking back in Firefox it was now just a javascript error as well.  He called and they had no idea what we were talking about he was sent to various departments.  Eventually he ended up in sales who could not offer the web only offer but wanted 3 times as much for the same phone.  Told them no the issue is the order form is broken and then sent back around to technical support.  They basically said we cannot help you we have no way of contacting the web development guys to confirm there is an issue or even fix the issue.  So basically my brother was out of luck because of the fact no one at this company we could speak to could talk to anyone in charge of their actual web site.  This was a big time company and it’s pretty bad their order forms were broken and the fact no one was aware on the phones or could even contact someone was pretty bad.

That story made me think of my blog post today about the developers seemingly always being out of reach of the people who need them the most.  In this case it was the employees of this company having no way to even contact the people in charge of the systems.  It also happens to us when we’re dealing with products we run on our servers or just on our own systems.  It’s pretty frustrating situation to deal with when you report bugs to the support team.

We’ve had long outstanding bugs with several pieces of software we run both of which causing us headaches every once in a while.  In every case we’ve dealt strictly with support people who tell us it’s not yet fixed.  When you hear this for a year it starts to get to a point where you just want to say let me talk to them.  It makes me wonder if the support person is explaining the issue or even reporting it to developers at all.  In every case these vendors have no bug reporting systems at all or shut them down in favor of none.  So it’s make a ticket to support and hope they file a proper bug report.

I did a time as a co-op where I did software development so I can understand the problem of developers talking to users all the time.  There are times though when you need to talk to the end user to figure out how to replicate a bug.  I know some developers would never do that but rather would sit in their little coding cave and never interact with the end users at all to implement fixes that matter or add even very simple features.  Along with that developers getting involved in aspects so they know the product better also goes a long way.  Rather than just developing the product go out there and try to perform the task the end users are doing.  So if it’s in house application go and watch them on their computer or work with them to try to accomplish their tasks for a few hours or a day or whatever.  If it’s an end user piece of software try to create a better test environment or get more active feedback rather than just saying no bugs it works.  When you intend to use a piece of software for what it’s meant for you tend to find a lot of things you wouldn’t if you’re going off a check box system of what needs done.  So for example you have a screen and it works so you’re happy as a developer but as the end user the way it was designed is adding extra work load and one tiny change to the screen say some sort of auto complete instantly increases productivity by 10 fold.

That’s my rant for today just if you’re developing software make so users if necessary can talk to developers to get bugs squashed.  If you’re a developer don’t instantly dismiss end users as being idiots as they may be onto something and maybe it’s worth listening and trying to implement those changes.  The changes may seem small to you but they may be huge for the end users.

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