The UX of Buggy Software

By | November 29, 2007

In any non-trivial piece of software you have alot of features.  Often, there is a bug in some of those features.  In the rollout phase of software, there are usually ALOT of bugs.  People use the word “beta” to mean buggy, but it carries a deadly payload.

When a user encounters one bug, they will assume that all “similar” features are suspect.  In other words, if one menu button doesn’t work, then the user will assume that ALL menu buttons are tainted.  To overcome this ONE bug, the user will need to reassure themselves that the other buttons work ONE AT A TIME.  In other words: “One bad apple spoils the bunch.

This is a tough pill to swallow for some developers.  They think, “No, they should assume that just that one button is broken.”  I am sorry to those developers, but they are living in a fantasy world.  Trust in software is not something that is diminished incrementally.  Trust is blown away in large chunks.

This is a warning to all software makers.  Release buggy software at the risk of creating trust issues.  I understand that this is inevitable.  This is why most users do not trust computers.  They are buggy.  But capitalism is king and software must be released.  The only answer is to be as transparent as possible and fix bugs as soon as possible.

The best model is to be vocal about finding and fixing problems.  This gives the user trust in YOU, if not in the software.  And that is close enough.

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