Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Nitpicks Matter

I mentioned in a previous post that nitpicks matter. This is the main premise of Joel Spolsky's book User Interface Design for Programmers, which while simplistic in the realm of UI design, is very fun and easy to read and significantly influenced my redesign of the Advantage Data Architect (ARC) GUI in version 8. Every little thing that might not seem significant adds up to a poor user experience. Sometimes you can't quite peg what is wrong. It's nothing major, nothing worth spending the time reporting to the software vendor, but it's just annoying.

The irony here is that often the little bugs that drive you crazy are the easiest to fix. One or two lines of code and that bug that makes you curse every time you run into it is gone. You are happy as an end user, and we are happy as developers because we were able to quickly and easily address something that was bothering you.

While adding some stored procedures and triggers to an internal utility that uses Advantage recently, two things became very apparent; 1) I had not done enough usability testing with the SQL debugger and 2) Users are not sending us the nitpicks that are annoying them.

#1 is entirely my fault, and there isn't much I can do now except fix up my mistakes and do some more usability testing. The rewarding part is as mentioned above, many of these fixes are just small tweaks in the user interface behavior.

#2 became apparent as I ran in to at least 4 issues that drove me crazy. The cursor left the editor buffer after every execution (which one user did report, thanks!) and ARC would not position the cursor at an error location when saving a trigger with errors. I had a less than stellar experience. A few days later a partner called me to explain a similar experience they had encountered. I'm convinced many others have run into the same issues but do not have time or do not know how to report the issues. Many also probably thought the bugs were nitpicks and did not warrant nagging us with an e-mail. Nag us, please!

How do you report these nitpicks? In the future we will put a simple interface into ARC that allows you to report whatever you want with no required input fields. Until then, you can always send email to advantage@ianywhere.com and put "attn: JD" in the subject field. Those e-mails will get to me and I will log them in our bug tracking utility myself. Often a small video is much easier than expressing re-creation steps in an e-mail, so feel free to use utilities like Jing to send URLs of short video clips if that is easier.

1 comment:

J.D. Mullin said... and versions of ARC now have a Feedback button in the top left corner you can use to report feedback. Or you can directly visit http://feedback.advantagedatabase.com

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