vendors who write for Windows

I spent all day Saturday fighting Windows. Thing is, I don't really hate Windows; I'm frustrated by the bad programmers who write for Windows. It's almost enough to make me switch to Macintosh!

Some programmer managed to do something to DirectX which made another program stop working. (It may have been that Windows Media Player updated itself even though I don't use it). The second program requires DirectX, found a NEWER version than expected, and failed. Come on guys!! Get it together.

So I restored back to before Media Player updated itself, reinstalled the second app and it now works. Luckily I wrote down ALL of the programs that have been installed in the last month since I had to reinstall them all.

(Take a deep breath. "Serenity now!")

Okay, so, granted, I'm a little on the edge already but then I loaded a PDF that hung my system. A PDF?? Oh, come on! [@#$%^&*.] A few minutes later I figured it out: Adobe Acrobat had put up a dialog that asked if I wanted to upgrade (although I have said "no" to this at least a million times) but the dialog box was UNDER the PDF window where I couldn???t see it. I cannot fathom what caused me to THINK to look.

Oh, and a quick thank-you to whichever programmer decided to delete my normal.dot file. But I had it backed up. Got you! HAHAHAHAHA.

I spent an hour on the phone helping my dad with some genealogy software. The end result: to put emphasis in notes, you have to press Ctrl-I or Ctrl-B. You know, like Word Star in 1985. (Remember control keys? Use ^o to get small text?)

Then I was working with a special MP3 program that refuses to use TAGS! I ended up using MP3 Tag Studio, Notepad, Word, and Excel to accomplish what I wanted. To Microsoft Excel programmers: thank you thank you thank you! I had to use this formula to make things work:

=RIGHT(REPT(0,6) & A4,6 & "-" & CLEAN(MID(MID(C4,1,title_length)) & "-") & MID(B4,1,artist_length),1,49))

What a workhorse Excel is! You can use Excel and Word to accomplish almost anything. Hey, waitaminute, both of those are available on the Mac....

So what's the point? While clear understanding of the user and his requirements should make the better product, the developers have to care. They just have to CARE about the people who use their products. "I can get it to work" is not an acceptable answer if a computing expert (like me or your typical product manager or other power user) cannot. And I'm not the typical user. The vendor's user forum is filled with page after page of wails of anquish from poor unsophisticated customers who want the result but didn't realize that they needed a computing degree to set the system up. (There's a workaround: all you have to do is use Excel, Word, notepad,....)

I think the iPod and iTunes are brilliant (even on Windows). Perhaps these were the result of clear requirements but they were definitely the result of a development team that loves music. They put in some wonderful subtleties that couldn't have been in the requirements.

Every week I meet product managers who are frustrated with the usability of their products. They believe that they need to somehow articulate the requirements better or differently. Perhaps so, but the developers also have to care about usability; they have to care about the users of the products; they have to care.

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson was a founding instructor at Pragmatic Institute, a role he held for more than 15 years before he left to start Under10 Playbook. In his return to Pragmatic Institute, Steve supports the complete learning path for product teams, ensuring they are fully armed for success. 

Over the course of his career, Steve has helped thousands of companies and tens of thousands of product professionals implement product management processes. He has worked in the high-tech arena since 1981, rising through the ranks from product manager to chief marketing officer. Steve has experience in technical, sales and marketing management positions at companies that specialize in both hardware and software. In addition, he is an author, speaker and advisor on product strategy and product management.


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