Surveys Are Your Lifeblood

by Paul Grimsley

Nothing estranges like arbitrary changes.

So, Windows 10 is all about change — an evolving platform pitched as a service rather than a product. Adobe’s Creative Suite employs a similar model. Great — you don’t have to keep going to the store and buying a new product — it just automatically downloads and updates, and there is your new iteration.

Browsers have been doing this for a while too. You can’t resist it, because things start to break and glitch, and eventually it precipitates a point where you have to acquiesce and click the update button.

Windows and Adobe generally fail to be upfront about what has changed. I think Adobe is better, but they need to make it simpler to see it all. With Adobe it may simply that they change so damned much when they change things, that I can’t process it until I have no choice. Windows basically sneak it all in under the radar, and you discover the changes by tripping mines and falling over tripwires.

An arrested workflow costs money. A halted workflow kills income. I don’t mind having to relearn an application when something changes, but sometimes I would like to be asked whether I want to implement that change. If I choose not to implement it I don’t want everything to jam up either. Everything should play nice with each other, but I also need the applications not to be clingy and dependent on the builds that come out around the same time as them.

If one application has a buggy build I don’t like, or loses a feature I need, I want to be able to roll it back without throwing a spanner in the works of the other apps’ functionality.

I did not know until reading around today, that there is a place within Windows 10 for feedback; I know Adobe asks. So, my notion that these changes come unbidden is probably a result of my own failure to engage. I know a lot of tech companies survey to discover what direction they might take their tech in, then they build something and beta test it, and then they release it into the wild, but when popular features are siloed I just don’t get how the decision really could have been arrived at without some insane arbitrary idea on the line.

Adobe does have a dry as crackers release note most of the time. Window 10? No clue. Where does it all go? What slots into where? Why doesn’t this work now? What did I do? Microsoft — confusing error messages are a legacy they seem intent on preserving.

When you survey and you decide to jump off in a certain direction, might it not be good to show how you arrived at that decision? Transparency is the enemy of confusion. If a useful and popular function has been moved that might be something to highlight. If a useful and popular function has been scrapped and you didn’t replace it an explanation might be in order. Do not pull the rug out from under your customers, and if you need to totally break from a successful way of doing things it better be because of something equally fantastic you put in its place.

But asking is the thing, not telling. I want my machine to work for me — not against me. Some preamble is great, a good idea of the updates ramifications is very useful, but surveys before you even start the change process is what I really want. Most downloads are set to default express install, and most customizable installation procedures are designed to be so laborious that you hit a point and just want to kill it and let it do it’s thing.

If you find out what people want beforehand you can better tailor your final product to fit their needs. Change for change’s sake can often be counter-intuitive, and can alienate your user base. There were a few stumblesteps that Netflix made before it righted course and became the behemoth it is now. Windows 10 when it first launched did seem to have been listening to its users and fixed some of the problems present in 8. But the way updates have been rolling out of late don’t seem to have been so popular; and sneaky enforced updates which have affected aficionados of Windows 7 have been met with resistance. No process is totally painless, but having a customer-driven target to aim for is always going to be better.

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