General Software Update Expectations
I read an interesting Google Groups post today that got me thinking about software release expectations. The post is in the Coda group and is titled When is the next release planned?. This is a fairly common inquiry in many software support forums. There are several reasons why I think end-users pose this question to software creators.
In the case of purchased software there may be is a sense of entitlement. Money has changed hands and the purchaser feels as though they should have more say in the development process and schedule. The customer may also have a desire to validate their purchase decision.
As a software developer I have a fair amount of experience dealing with end-user expectations. It always amazes me when users expect Apple, Adobe, Google or Microsoft quality and quantity from a small team of developers.
The main difference here is that the end-user can more easily influence the independent developer than the giant corporation. Adobe has created a mature image editing application in Photoshop, and they know it. Pixelmator on the other hand doesn't have the luxury of market dominance. They are the underdog who still has something to prove in their pursuit to compete with the big boys. Many customers know this and take every opportunity to attempt to get Photoshop features at a Pixelmator price.
Organizations who are focused on the continued improvement of their applications frequently set expectations for bug fixes and new features through published roadmaps, forum posts, and individual communications. Several that come to mind right now are Magento, Telerik, and Handbrake. There is another, much more unintentional method of setting expectations for new releases. This mainly involves past update history found in a 'Change Log'. The change log contains a list of releases with descriptions of new features and bug fixes.
The following table is an overview of the releases for the Coda application. You can see how a customer who purchased Coda in December likely had the idea that they were paying for an application that was undergoing continuous incremental improvements. This is what I thought when I purchased Coda. It's not like I need an update, because Coda does everything I need. Unfortunately, without intending it Panic has set an expectation for updates.
|1.1||11/30/2007||Improvements for 10.5|
|1.0.5||10/18/2007||Bug fixes and general improvements|
|1.0.4||10/11/2007||Bug fixes and general improvements|
|1.0.3||06/06/2007||Bug fixes and general improvements|
|1.0.2||05/17/2007||Bug fixes and general improvements|
|1.0.1||05/02/2007||Bug fixes and general improvements|
When a company hires me to work on a development project they expect to see improvements in the form of bug fixes and features every 4-8 weeks. This is especially true once a product is deemed to be production ready.
Here are the change logs for a few other applications I use. As an end-user of these applications I look forward to performance updates and bug fixes!
MetaX is a meta-data tagger for MP4 files and their derivatives, as well as QuickTime movie files.
|2.4.5||04/28/2008||Bug fixes and general improvements|
|2.4.4||04/19/2008||Bug fixes and general improvements|
|2.4.0||04/14/2008||tagChimp data source, and general improvements|
|22.214.171.124||03/19/2008||Bug fixes and general improvements|
|2.3.7||03/18/2008||Bug fixes and general improvements|
|2.3.6||03/09/2008||Bug fixes and general improvements|
|03/03/2008||Bug fixes and general improvements|
|2.3.5||02/29/2008||64 bit support|
|126.96.36.199||02/23/2008||Bug fixes and general improvements|
|188.8.131.52||02/20/2008||Bug fixes and general improvements|
|2.3.4||02/18/2008||Bug fixes and general improvements|
|184.108.40.206||02/05/2008||Bug fixes and general improvements|
|2.3.2||02/02/2008||Leopard only release|
|2.3.0||01/20/2008||Bug fixes and general improvements|
Pixelmator, the beautifully designed, easy-to-use, fast and powerful image editor for Mac OS X has everything you need to create, edit and enhance your images.
|1.2.1||06/05/2008||Many bug fixes and general improvements|
|1.2||05/12/2008||Many bug fixes and general improvements|
|1.1.4||03/20/2008||Many bug fixes and general improvements|
|1.1.3||02/20/2008||Many bug fixes and general improvements|
|1.1.2||01/22/2008||Many bug fixes and general improvements|
|1.1.1||12/18/2007||Bug fixes and general improvements|
|1.1||12/06/2007||Bug fixes and general improvements|
|1.0.2||11/10/2007||Bug fixes and general improvements|
|1.0.1||10/13/2007||Bug fixes and general improvements|
What are your expectations for software updates? Does your view on updates differ based on the purchase price of an application?