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Eating Dogfood to early

I had a theory and wondered what you would think about it. I feel that if you eat dogfood to early in the development process that you can find yourself getting used to quirks in the app and quickly losing the "new-user" perspective. When I thought of this, I was thinking of Windows. From what I have heard Microsoft is big on installing beta versions of their software in their production environment. So before they are anywhere near ship they have people who are already acustomed to all the quirky (not necessarily unusable) points of the software.

From your article I can tell that you also use very early builds of the product (not even builds, just in the debugger). As a usuability guy I imagine that your perspective shoule be very unique on this subject. Have you run into scenarios where your intimate knowledge with your products has distanced you from the users who are first picking it up?

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Absolutely, this happens.

No matter what you do you're going to have to provide areas of functionality that you don't have any need for, yourself, and those areas never get dogfed, so it's often the case that they're poorly designed. For a decade, the advanced financial functions in Excel were kind of screwy, because nobody on the Excel team ever touched them. They finally got fixed (somewhat) in the latest release but it took a long time for the old fashioned customer-feedback-loop to take place -- a lot longer than when you notice things through dogfooding.

And more to the point -- I agree that many times I have discounted customer feedback because I have a workaround that I think is 100% fine. C'est la vie. It's better than no dogfooding at all, I think.

Joel Spolsky
Fog Creek Software
Wednesday, April 21, 2004

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