Last week, I make a joking swipe at how some developers think that when a problem occurs between the user and an application, it’s the user who needs improvement, not the app.
Sadly, the pervasive attitude among programmers really can be that way: faced with improving their own work or blaming human error, it’s very easy for coders to pin the blame on users.
It can often be an argument around a specific feature of the application. The developer meets the specs perfectly, but the feature isn’t intuitively executed for the user. Oh, the developer gets it, sure, but he coded the program to begin with. It’s the same reason why you should never try to proofread your own written work: your brain will automatically substitute the words you misspelled for what you meant to write.
End user experience monitoring can provide the ultimate answer to the conflict. Is the app poorly designed or are users really not getting it? Analytics and metrics from application performance monitoring can provide excellent clues to solving the mystery.
But say the fault really is human error. This may cause shouts of smug glee from the development team, but they’re not off the hook yet. Someone has to explain how to use the application correctly to the end user, and guess who that might be?
The fact is, developers who code great apps may still need to follow through with proper documentation, particularly if the application is doing something new, or something old in a new way. Yes, the end users may need the improvement, but that improvement may need to start with the developer.
It won’t be easy; developers typically don’t like spending their time documenting how to use their software. They like to create and build, not back up and explain things.
If you have an intransigent developer staff, and no money in the budget to hire a tech writer, here’s one possible solution. Find a power user of the application (there’s always one) who totally gets the application. Incentivize them to build a how-to guide, with the developer as a resource. This solves the resource issue of providing documentation and hopefully will establish a rapport between end users and developers.
Such communication is never a bad thing, since improved relations mean efficiency and time saved.