Other People’s Busted Software is an Opportunity

I was at the airport the other day, and a guy who works for Delta told me he wants to use their website-based system to give a friend a flight voucher. He can’t do it from his phone, it just doesn’t work from phones (cool neat). He needs a laptop to do it, and asked to borrow mine. Little bit of a weird request. I’m sure all of you are security conscious and that should be a yellow flag. But he was an old fella, nice guy, his friend was standing right there. We sat there together both looking at the screen while he did it.

He went to the internal (put public-facing) Delta website, logged in, and tried to use the voucher system, but it just loaded a blank white page with no errors at all, which he didn’t understand. I understood it: this thing is wicked broken. I turned off my content blocker thing, 90% of the time it’s that in my experience, no dice. We tried another browser, no dice. It was just broken. I couldn’t help.

These are just anecdotal, but I’m sure y’all have endless stories and experiences too. Software that just absolutely doesn’t work. Tends to be websites.

One way to look at it is opportunity. If you make software that does work reliably, you’ve got a leg up. Even if your customers don’t tell you “I like your software because it always works”, they’ll feel it and make choices around knowing it.



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3 responses to “Other People’s Busted Software is an Opportunity”

  1. Burt says:

    In my experience, the most common reason for web sites being so badly broken is “bad management”. Managers, for one reason or another, have made decisions to cut staffing and/or funding, and things have been left to rot.

  2. It’s embarassing that you’re completely right, software that works shouldn’t be a leg up, it should be the baseline we all expect of oursevles.

    I keep a folder called “We Can Do Better” full of examples where even the most basic of functionality (e.g. login forms) fails on websites belonging to enormous companies.

    The reason for the folder name? Because, as Rich pointed out, our industry is failing to deliver and needs to do better – the embarassing thing is: we can. We know things fail (networks, JavaScript etc), but we consistently build for the best case scenario rather than the worst.

    We (the human population) send people to space on the regular, there are thousands of flights globally each day, and yet our industry can’t even consistently paint some freaking rectangles to a screen properly in an environment we can iterate on as rapidly as necessary.

    Bring up the customer feedback submissions… I bet nobody asked for “the website to be more app-like”, but I can guarantee plenty wish it actually worked.

    If we stop focusing on whatever framework is in vogue this week or pivoting to whatever architecture some big tech company has just written a blog post about and instead just stick to simple, working technology with the focus being on our actual end-user, we can do some pretty great things.

  3. For what it’s worth, the error message in Rich Harris’ screenshot is an Akamai WAF false positive.

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