Talking Usability: Bugs, Defects, Glitches, and Other Excuses for Poor Product Design

by David Dick on 17 October 2013

Would you be comfortable knowing that a heart-monitoring machine has a few glitches, but otherwise has 98% accuracy? Would you be comfortable knowing that the software you are using to calculate your income tax has a few calculation errors? Would you buy a household appliance that is known to cause short circuits? I believe users deserve a defect-free product and so should you.

Many projects are driven by unrealistic deadlines, tight budgets, and limited resources. Consequently, project managers are under intense pressure to cut corners to keep the project on schedule. Cutting corners often means reducing the time for usability testing and functionality testing. Testers are under pressure to identify showstoppers (i.e., defects that need to be fixed immediately before testing can continue), defects that cause the system to crash, and defects that cause observable product failure in the shortest amount of time.

The situation is not dire because there is a way to deal with bugs, defects, and glitches.

  • User guides are written to describe how the product is ideally supposed to work. When users encounter problems they contact the help desk.
  • The help desk open tickets, which are escalated to the developers to be fixed in a future release.
  • Trainers assure users that problems will be corrected in the next release and teach the workarounds.

It doesn’t have to be this way. There is nothing wrong with a product that has basic features and functions, but works well and is user friendly. There is nothing wrong with requesting more time to thoroughly test the product and fix the problems. What is wrong is to roll out a product that becomes a liability instead of an asset.

If you are testing a product and identify defects, and you’re not sure whether to report it or ignore it, ask yourself, “Would I use this product knowing that it has bugs, defects, and glitches?”

I’m David Dick and I’m talking usability.

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