21 Oct 2003 jdybnis   » (Apprentice)

Re: What Customers Want

This is an interesting comparison. It's a bit hard to establish what really makes people love your software (as opposed to what they say they want). You might be able to figure it out via introspection. Here's my list.

What will make people hate your software.

1. instability, causing lost user input
2. bad interface
3. poor perceived performance

Some Explanation

1. Instability is not inescapably damning. If a software failure does not result in lost context or lost user input, then it hardly amounts to more than a delay while the software restarts and/or recreates the pre-failure context. On the other hand, users hate to have to repeat themselves. If the user has to manually recreate context after a crash, or re-enter some input, then they will (rightfully) hate the software. Conversely, I believe users will love your software when they recognize that it saves them from repeating the same input.

2. What constitutes a good software interface and ease of use is not agreed upon, even among experts. But there are some interfaces that are universally despised. I won't say more.

3. Performance problems actually fall into two categories. One is poor perceived performance, the other is poorly performing features. Poor percieved performace is actually a symptom of bad design, not a bad implementation. Even objectively slow software can be pleasant to use. If software always provides a quick acknowledgment of user input, and performance is predictable (even if it is not fast), then users can adapt and work around absolute deficient performance. Poorly performing features will not make users hate your software. Users simply won't use those features if they don't have the time. Unpredicatable performance will frustrate users. Users won't hate your software just because some features are slow. Given sufficiently expressive tools, users will always want some features to be faster. That is unavoidable. And anyway, users will eventually try to do things that are impossible to make as fast as they want. Impossible to make fast because the problem is computationally intractable, or because of the volume data they are working with is just too large. It will not be naturally obvious to the users which things are inefficiently implemented and which things are impossible to make fast.

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