Friday, December 4, 2009

Getting things right the first time round

After releasing the PDC downloader application I have learned quite a few things the hard way. Releasing any software, be it open source, free or with a limited target audience comes with the same strings attached as any software.

For this tool I wanted the code base to be nice, feature set to be just enough, to be well tested and to learn a few things on the way. In this way it turned out to be a great success, but in trying to keep things lightweight and push versions out early I made some critical errors.

  1. Do not underestimate the usefulness of automatic updates. No matter how small the application, you always want to keep your user base up to date. Even if the updates are tiny and incremental, reaching everyone that has already downloaded a previous version is vital. There will come a time when something show stopping happens, and its a pain for your users to have to manually get an up to date version. In this respect, I really wish I employed the use of something like ClickOnce from the start!
  2. When I hacked the UI together, I wanted it to be functional so I didn’t mind having a basic UI. But to be honest the UI was too basic, which actually made it less functional than I intended. A few hours in blend would have easily rectified this which is another thing I wish I did from the start.
  3. And finally error reporting. It’s fine to set up a log file so all exceptions are logged somewhere. But this isn’t much use to users who just want to download something and have it work. Something simple like making it easier for users to email an exception is something which should have been there from the very beginning.

I really hope I won’t make these mistakes in the future.

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