The 7 Steps of Software Development Case Study - Chapter XAvoid Using Dynamic SQL Statements

How To Communicate With Users

May 23rd, 2007

Am I speaking to the party to whom I am connected?When we’re developing software we should never lose sight of the fact that it’s being developed to solve real problems and to fill needs potential users have. The end user of your program is the most important person in your project.

Often we do forget them and get hung up in writing the coolest new routine, saving a bit or processor cycle here or there, or doing other things to please ourselves. Even worse, some developers choose to punish their end users by inflicting things like forced color and font selections, forced screen sizes, non-standard Windows behaviors, crazy lockouts, and other such nonsense.

If you’re in a corporate environment, talk to your expected users regularly. Stay on top of the situation because things can change rapidly. If they work in a different location than you, plan field trips to go visit them. You can learn a lot just by observing their day-to-day process and talking to them about what would make their work easier and more efficient. You can also determine if the cool features you want to implement will annoy them greatly or be of great benefit.

If you’re doing commercial software or outsourced software it may be hard for you to talk to your anticipated users. In this case, your testing should include reality checks from people outside the project. Let them test the program from the perspective of a user. They will often notice weak areas or user interface problems that you, being close to the software, miss.

Also, don’t be afraid to give select users sneak peaks and alpha or beta test versions of your program. You have to use some care in selecting who will participate in these tests but the benefits to you and your program can be enormous. The earlier in your development process that you can deliver even a rough or incomplete version the better because user feedback can help put you on the right path to developing the best program for them.

If you’re a project leader or manager, allow your team the freedom to work with end users directly and encourage managers in sponsoring departments or companies to allow this as well. The reward will be higher quality software that users enjoy using.

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Entry Filed under: Project Management

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