Why do you develop…

Sometime ago, I had a conversation with a developer on the subject of rectifying a re-occurring issue. There was a straightforward fix a developer could do to fix each occurrence of that issue but the developer, who had also explained several times how to avoid the issue to one or two of the several users wanted to punish the users and stop fixing the problems for them to compel them to make efforts to avoid the problem by following procedure. This might work if you’ve one or two users but more than that, I think it’s unrealistic. Much better to allow for the software to protect against errors particularly if it’s a known and re-occurring issue.

I’ve often replayed that conversation in my mind and realised that I don’t really like it as an idea. While no part of the world is perfect, and there are often underlying considerations, rather than telling users how to avoid problems procedurally, we should enable them not to cause the problem in the first place by either a) preventing it from happening at a coding level or b) automatically fixing it in some way. Failing that, providing them with a tool to fix the issue themselves.

I don’t think we should ever be in a zone whereby it’s considered acceptable to punish users via the software we’ve designed for them. We should be in a zone whereby we develop to protect them against themselves to some extent. Ultimately, a developer’s role is to help a user to accomplish some task. That includes making it easy for them to accomplish that task while making it hard for them to break accomplishing that task. Punishing them because your software design fails on the second part of that role is perhaps a little unfair.