Monday, October 31, 2016

Gearing up for Tableau Conference and getting ready to meet our customers

The Tableau Conference will be held next week in Austin, Texas.  First, yay Texas!  Second, this should be a great chance to meet our customers.  I have long advocated that everyone involved in the software industry should spend time talking with users of our software.  I started in tech support way back in the Windows 95 days and the lessons I learned there have been incredibly useful over the years.

For instance, it is easy to dismiss some unusual behavior in software by saying, "Well, that is an extremely rare case and the people that see that will understand what is happening." I heard this comment once about users that were trying to use a utility that claimed to compress your memory on Windows 95 and cause your computer to run faster.  This was not the case.  The company that made this utility claimed Win95 compatibility but the application simply did not work.  It crashed on boot and caused an ugly error when Windows started.  Many users that bought it did not know what to do and called Windows technical support instead (at which point we showed them how to disable the utility and contact the company that wrote it for support).  The lesson I learned there is that many users are savvy enough to know they want a faster machine and tend to believe companies that say they can deliver.  If they have problems, though, they get stuck and cannot fix the errors.  I liken this to cars - we want high mileage cars, but if a gizmo we buy does not work right, many of us have to turn to a mechanic for help.

And that is the lesson I learned, or re-learned: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  If we can simplify the design so that potential errors are minimized, fewer people will have to contact support (or take their car to a mechanic, if you are following that analogy) for help.  And that benefits everyone.

I use that mentality early in the planning stages for features.  If we can push to simplify the design, or minimize the number of buttons to click, or eliminate even one dialog, the feature will be more resilient to errors created by clicking the wrong button or dismissing a dialog to early  or even something like another application stealing focus while a dialog is open.  Feel free to let me know what you think of the Tableau interface for creating clusters, and I hope to see you next week at TC.  I will be in the logo wear booth for most of my time, so we should have plenty of time to talk!

Questions, comments, concerns and criticisms always welcome,

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