I have a question... I wonder if any research has been put into this
Suppose we have a software application that interacts with a scanner, a
camera, FTP server, etc. Some external agent beyond our control.
Now suppose there's a problem, such as:
1. Their scanner is broken
2. Their FTP server is down
3. Their proxy server is failing
4. Their camera is not turned on
The user then contacts us, and after several emails/calls we eventually
get an idea what the real problem is. It turns out it's completely
beyond our realm of control. (If we're REALLY lucky, we can advise
them how to fix it. If we're mildly lucky, we get to talk to a network
administrator, or tech-savvy individual who can take steps to really
fix the problem, or contact the right people to help. But sometimes
we're not that lucky, and all we can do is explain to the user it's a
problem we can't fix.)
And even if we fix it, the user doesn't always catch on to the fact
that it wasn't a bug in our software. Sometimes they still walk away
thinking our application caused their problem.
I'm wondering: does this leave irrevocable negativity in the user's
mind towards our software? Is it better to refrain from these "risky"
features, and not lose face when they fail?
That's my basic question, right there. Other tidbits about our
As we draft a list of new features for upcoming version of our
products, things like scanner support, USB camera playthrough, etc.,
are trickling in. These are great ideas, but we're a small company. I
wonder if trying to add these will cause more headache, and in some
cases bad experiences, than simply, say, asking people to use the
software that came with their scanner... then import those images into
(When the hardware changes protocol somehow, will our software break?
Will we get calls from people when their images are gray, only to find
out their scanner is to blame?)
On the other hand, I know it's always great if people don't have to
switch apps to get their goals accomplished, so I can see both sides.
And our user base is mostly students and teachers; younger students
especially need everything gift-wrapped in one tidy application to
really get anything accomplished.
But, for example, we've had a lot of calls/complaints from people using
our web-authoring tool that usually boil down to server problems on
their end. At this point I'd like to encourage them simply to export
their webpages to their local hard disk, and THEN copy them to their
server. If they can't connect to their server from Windows/the Finder,
that should make it more clear that it's something for their network
administrator to deal with. If they see the error in our application
instead, does that subtly poison them against our software/company?
P.S. I'm in no way implying our software is otherwise perfect and
bug-free. :) But we do happen to field a lot of calls from users
about things outside our control.