Wednesday, February 08, 2006


We're all Crash Test Dummies

I upgraded a piece of software this week--- it's really not important what it was, but the program was TechSmith SnagIt.

48 Hours after I paid for my upgrade, I got a thank-you e-mail from TechSmith marketing asking me why I upgraded, and what I liked and disliked about their product. I got the impression they actually cared.

On the same day, I got a similar e-mail from another software company (name witheld) whose products I have used for several years. I suspect I got this e-mail because I have said point blank in their newsgroups and elsewhere that I can no longer recommend their product to others, and I wonder if they think that if they appear to be doing something about the problems I will shut up and go away.

Dream on. The current version is not an improvement over the previous version, it is sloppy, the new interface is clumsy, they broke things that didn't need fixing, and didn't fix obvious things that should have been fixed three versions ago. Half of the "new features" advertised for the application are neither new nor features-- they are capabilities the software already had wearing new party hats. They raised the price and delivered less for the money. Of course, I've already said this a dozen times (and provided the company, both publicly and privately, with pages and pages of detailed information on the deficiencies and problems with the current version.)

Since the attitude of the company reps in their newsgroups has been less than useful or supportive, I don't believe they actually care a whole lot. I also suspect this "research" is being done to lend validity to decisions that have long since been made about the product, and my feedback won't be heeded or valued because it doesn't support the party line.

I answered their survey anyway, on the off chance that it was legitimate.... but I'm beginning to feel a little like a crash test dummy. Asking me to provide feedback on the current version--- when I've already said that after 6 upgrades, the current version is so bad that it would take a major redesign to get me to purchase, let alone cheerlead for the next version is a bit like pretending to be surprised by dents in the cranium of my buddy here after the car he was in is carted off to the landfill.

If the company cared about the users and/or the product, they would never have released the current version without a public beta test. Or they would have listened to the comments of the folks who participated in the private beta test, and acted upon them before the application went live. Or they would pay attention to what the people who participate in the newsgroups have been saying for nearly a year. Or they'd have read the reviews by the members of the technical and design press who told the truth, rather than wrote fluff pieces to ensure their advertising revenues.

I repeated all of my suggestions again. I'm willing to bet none of them are acted upon. I'm even more willing to bet that the application will continue to deteriorate until they eventually hire a product manager who knows what he/she is doing-- but by that time it will probably be too late. A promising piece of software that was on its way to becoming serious competition for an "industry standard" package, will be forever condemned to second-class status or obscurity. It's not like they've never done it before. Can anyone spell Word Perfect? Bryce? KPT? (oops, I wasn't going to name names, was I?)

BTW, this is a vintage 1960's Crash Test Dummy photographed at the Ford Museum. He looks pretty good for a guy whose job is to get the stuffing beat out of him so that real people can be safer.

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