Heading up our technical support department, I’ve heard almost every question there is about our software and a lot of other programs as well. I always find it interesting when someone asks why we still answer our phones or why we give away updates for free. Those are funny questions when you think about it and perhaps odd questions to be asking technical support. But we do get all kinds here.
I believe the answer would be different for each of us here at Chaos Software. Personally, I believe this shows a simple respect for our customers but I also believe this is what I would expect from any other software company. Perhaps expect is the wrong word. We use a lot of different software here and I almost never expect a software company to answer their phones or provide free upgrades. So instead, I will say this is what I wish we would get from every other software company. And if this is a level of service we wish from other companies then the least we can do is provide it ourselves.
I think for me, the most frustrating part of using a product, especially a new piece of software, is an overwhelming feeling that “no one is home”. This trepidation can be slight if you have a simple usability question and can be devastating if you actually run into a problem. I hope that, for my small part in technical support, we provide the antithesis to that “nobody home” feeling. Hopefully we give you the feeling that despite what happens with the software, even if something can’t be fixed, at least there is someone on the other end of the download that cares about what happened.
I thought it might be interesting to give you a small amount of detail into what goes into a creating a new version of Intellect or Time & Chaos. Unlike other software companies, we do not release a new version of our software based on the year or simply because it feel like it’s time our users paid for the program again. Rather we have a list of changes we would like to make in any certain release. If those changes can’t be made to the current version, they become long term changes that we would like to add if we completely rewrite the program in the future. If that long term list gets long enough, it starts to feel like a completely new release is the best course of action.
What we implement is based first on how we use the software on a daily basis and second based on how we hear the software being used. There are no favorites when recreating software from the ground up. Every feature or function is evaluated. Is this feature used by most people? Is this feature intuitive? Does a change make the program more confusing or less confusing, more functional or less?
Skip ahead through the months of development and testing and we will usually have a version that is almost ready for public consumption. This is a bit like the “not ready for prime time players” of old Saturday Night Live. Finally releasing this to your eager hands is a bit like crossing a minefield to move into a new house. Yes, we are going to run into snags along the way but with time and patience, all snags can be traversed and the destination can be welcoming.
Of course, once you move in, it’s time to start redecorating. The same is true with our software. We almost never see a release as a finished product. There is always room for growth and change.