Bugs in our software stress me out more than spotting a cockroach in my apartment.
Why? Because a bug is a problem with an app one of our customers is using, which means the customer is not getting the optimum level of service from us. Whereas new features and partnerships may take longer than we want, they do not change the current experience by our users - they will only improve a future experience.
Bugs, on the other hand, create a negative current experience for our users. Often (but not always), bugs are small issues that are easily fixed. They are little mistakes that are spotted by us or by customers, verified by us to make sure the problem exists, handed off to our engineering team to fix, followed by extra testing to make sure the bug has, in fact, been squashed.
These little mistakes, however, can have a big impact on how people are using our apps and if they will continue to use them. After all, the devil is in the details, and it feels like the spotlight effect shines even brighter when bugs occur. This past weekend, we were alerted to a bug that was impacting how new users accessed the app at their property. When I read the email from the property manager, my face flushed and I cursed myself for being out running errands and not in front of my computer to deal with it immediately.
After my reply that I’d look into it ASAP, the client responded that I shouldn’t let it ruin my weekend. I appreciated his comment, but how could it not? I made sure to log the bug so our programmers would see it on Monday and then hoped that not too many people would notice it in the meantime.
Later in the weekend, I was at an event for which putting my phone on nighttime mode was the prudent thing to do. In the middle of the event, which was quite somber, I felt my pocket buzz. And buzz. And buzz. And buzz. Sheepishly, I pulled my iPhone out of my pocket and saw a friend was trying to call me via Whatsapp. My phone had the crescent moon icon in the corner, but somehow it was allowing the call to get through. For a brief second, I lost the feeling of embarrassment (no one could hear my phone buzzing, thankfully) and rejoiced, silently, in the fact that my software company is not the only one to experience bugs. An obvious point, but hard to remember when you’re the one squarely in a customer’s sights.
After the event, I was talking with a friend who works in a supermarket chain’s corporate office. She was showing me photos of a recent store visit where certain items were not properly stocked and shelves looked disheveled. To me, it seemed like any supermarket at the end of a busy week, but to her it felt like ... a giant bug.
As she explained her frustration and all the little things that were wrong, I realized she was vocalizing the thoughts I had after I received the email from the client the previous morning. While I did my best to empathize with her, my mind was alive: bugs happen outside of software, too, in the real world.
Does this mean we will accept bugs?
Absolutely not. Nevertheless, knowing they happen to everybody in all business settings may help me relax just a little bit. Enough, perhaps, to lower them to unexpected-cockroach-on-the-wall status.