Users vs. Developers (Users are Stupid)

I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve heard a developer, shout those words; with a additional words for color and effect. I admit, I’ve had my share of user issues, and to be perfectly honest, most of the times, it was not because they were stupid, in fact it’s the complete opposite. The problem and I believe most of us in the software field share this problem, is, requirements, users can talk about features, they can talk about cool ideas, but most, can’t tell you in a coherent fashion, what they need.

The approach I have used in the last couple of years, have been to go over the tasks that users do in a daily basis, I try to understand fully, before moving on to the features that are not part of the day to day routine, but that are sporadically used. It is only after the above requirement is met, that I discuss enhancements, and cool features, etc. It’s important to spend time with them during their work day, taking notes of what they do, and how they do it, and try to find ways of making them more efficient without sacrificing ease of use.

It is imperative for us to understand, that software, is a tool. It might be a work of art for us, but for the users it’s a tool, that exists for a purpose. If a tool doesn’t do what the user needs, then there is no two ways about it, it’s bad, and they will move along. I for one have done this numerous time, in my computing life. I have gone through, some very cool editors, ide’s, you name it I’ve probably tried it. All of those tools had strengths, but for my need, they either were overkill, or just to bloated and slow.

If we, that are knowledgeable, go through this ordeal to find a tool that meet our needs; how can we be so deluded to think our software, is the panacea our users have been craving?

Talk to your users, put yourself in their shoes, learn their business model, ask them what their vision for the future is, plan for scalability. Don’t try to make the application they will be using in 2 years, make the application they need, to do their work now. This is a sound business model for the developer, if you did your job well, come 2 years they will be ready for your uber cool enhancements, and guess what, you will be ready to implement them in efficient and correct manner.

There are your PEBKAC cases, still you should never call them stupid, you need them, as much as they need you, in fact you need them more. Imagine a world, where everyone could develop their own applications, fix their own computer issues; that is a world where you, flip burgers for a living.

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