Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Technology, not magic

I'm in into software now. I never set out to end up in this business. But here I am - about to launch a mobile research platform. For those of you who have successfully launched websites and apps, I salute you. Because the rest of us have no idea what it's like to be sitting in front of an inbox watching email after email appear. Some are simple questions. Others challenge your own understanding of what your platform can and can't do to the the very limits.:

"What do you mean you have to ask the developers? Didn't you specify the functionality yourself?" Well, in all honesty I didn't. And that's another story for another post - or perhaps over a drink?

Also, as Ray Poynter once said during a Webex conference, 'It's not magic, it's technology. And technology can break!' Fortunately our app, tested to destruction and improved almost on a weekly basis, does not break down any more. But we still get reports of issues around 'it's crashing when I try send an entry' (try logging on correctly); 'video is taking an age to send' (It was 80Mb over a 3G network so I suggested she wait until she could get WiFi - then it worked instantly); (I can't see your invite to the project' (your fault for giving us the wrong email to send it to)... and so on.

One of the biggest and most bizarre issues we come across is around logging in to the site and the app. And here is how it's done:

Go to our website.
Download an app for your device and
Sign up on website
Launch the app
Sign in using same details as used on the website

And you are logged on. Which means you can send entries, accept projects, etc.

That simple.

But do you know how many people stumbled at this first hurdle?

The number of people who simply forgot which email address or password they used yet were adamant they were using the correct ones was awe inspiring. Luckily we could check the database and quickly establish they were using the wrong email address.

Another frequent issue was downloading the app. We discovered very quickly that having an iPhone did not mean you had an iTunes account. And if you did, it did not mean you had ever downloaded an app. This is critical during recruitment.

A few weeks ago one of my colleagues suggested there must be an easier way of signing up. But what could be easier than an email address and password? In the end there was an easier way. And we got to it by suggesting to our developers there must be an easier way. Without hesitation they said there was. And it was released last week. It was buggy at first but the last of the bugs was patched last night. And here is how it works:

You receive an email with a QR code on it
You scan the code
You are instantly signed up and logged in

That simple.

The lesson here is that when working with developers, 'logical way' does not equal 'easiest way'. There is a difference.


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