Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Myth of User Error

Have you ever had the “sounds like user error” knee-jerk response without taking the time to find the real cause of the problem? Have you ever heard a colleague do likewise? The concept of user error is so prevalent, we have created our own set of slang - “Problem exists between keyboard and chair”, “Problem in chair not in computer”, “ID-10T error”, etc. But is the user really to blame? I say the answer is no.

I once inherited a codebase where all lookup lists were implemented as Singletons. When the administrator went to add a new lookup value, it never showed up in the web form that displayed the list, so she re-booted her machine and then it “magically” appeared the next time she fired up the application. She blamed herself for the issue. She figured it was something she had done wrong, not that it was in fact an issue with the code.

Every problem a user encounters while using your application was created by you, the developer. You allowed it to happen. You put the user in a position to, or gave them the opportunity to fail. Whether it be from a lack of ability, QA, testing, or education, domain ignorance, laziness, or just a simple oversight, you are to blame. If you do get burnt, do not take it personally. Take responsibility and view it as an opportunity to learn and grow as a professional.

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