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What’s worse than the cockroach under your refrigerator? It is the bug affecting your software. At least you can call an exterminator for the roaches. Sometimes you are stuck with defective software for the lifecycle of the product. To be clear, I am not talking about viruses or malware, I am referring to unintended errors and glitches that inexplicably made it through quality control and testing.
The onset of this post stems from a reaction some video game bug I have recently encountered. I am not much of a gamer, so when I do encounter a bug in a game that I like, it frustrates the hell out of me. EA’s NCAA Football 11 is a game that aims for as real an experience playing college football as possible (for a 5’8, 150 lb web analyst – this is as close as it was ever going to it). However, this is a very flawed game. Bugs and glitches have actually led to the game being a step back from editions that came out five or six years ago – when it was only available on lesser platforms than the XBox 360. Updates and tuners have helped, but the game is still very flawed compared to previous editions. From 2000-2005, I bought every version for the PS2. This franchise was a finely tuned machine. What happened?
Speaking of five or six years ago, that reminds me of one of the all-time worst bugs I ever encountered. The Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (yeah, I can geek there) game was one of my personal favorites – good game play, but I especially enjoyed working my way through the plot line. The sequel offered the same high level game play, but a bug (actually production deadline) led to the plot being unfinished and not holding up. This was not originally designed and surprising in a game with George Lucas’ name on it…although much less surprising after the Indiana Jones 4 release (really George, I waited 19 years for that?!).
We find similar errors all the time across the web. Sometimes it is due to server issues or network mishaps – which are often unavoidable from a development perspective. But other times it is because of poor development that somehow made it past testing (or likely wasn’t tested). I won’t name any names to protect the guilty, but it is sad how many professional sites are missing content, have empty links, or programming errors that destroy the user experience.
Is it me, or this more prevalent in technology than other industries? Yes, products from other fields are often recalled because of defects. But how often do you see those products have a fundamental flaw directly related to their usage? Maybe it is because the nature of our industry allows for patches and updates to be added after the fact more easily than large scale recalls. It may be more important to some firms to meet deadlines than have a product operating at 100%. Their audience can finish the QA testing and they will fix the product as errors are brought to attention. Just my theory – but I’m open to alternate opinions.
Anyhow, my point is to get it right the first time. Sure, users are great for pointing out the flaws in a product, but don’t rely on them to point out bugs that should have been caught by your own programmers. Every user who experiences an error is a potential lost customer (or a lost repeat customer). It may or may not be reasonable to expect initial perfection, but striving for it should be the goal.