Thursday, August 14, 2008

Customers Don't Care

The development shop I lead is firmly shackled to Microsoft. We write applications using .Net, mostly in C# (occasionally in VB) on the .Net 2.0 framework with Visual Studio 2005 as our IDE. Our apps are hosted on Windows Server 2003 boxes, and our backend is SQL Server 2000.

Most programmers have a language of choice, along with the tendency to denigrate the languages they didn't choose. It's no secret that certain languages are better at certain things, but mostly people tend to stick with what they know. That's why I still write some ASP after all these years.

We have a running joke around the office. Web development is easy, all you're doing is putting stuff into a database and getting stuff out. Put data in, get data out. In, out. Easy-peasy. Cake.

The company I work for went through a big push about 4 years ago to move to .Net, but when asked why, one got the typically weasel-like management answers:
  • That's the way the industry is moving
  • It's more powerful
  • It's faster
  • It's easier
  • More value added
  • We have a Microsoft Enterprise license and we need to get our money's worth
At least the last is honest.... The rest came from.... well, I don't know where they came from. But the people announcing these declarations were probably the least qualified to voice a technical opinion.

Shortly after management announced all new development had to be done in .Net, they also decided some of the 'critical' applications should be redone in .Net as well. I fought that, because, well, it was stupid. But mostly I lost. So we spent a good amount of time rebuilding things in .Net that did something a previous applications not in .Net did perfectly fine. Which pretty much boiled down to putting stuff into a database and getting stuff out.

While everyone associated with application development has an opinion on which language to use, guess what? The customer couldn't care less. Oh, there are some customers who want you to use the latest and greatest so they can brag to their competition that they are using the latest and greatest (or most obscure, or most complex, or most [whatever]), but mostly, when it comes to web application development, the customer just doesn't care what language you code in.

They want:
  • certain information
  • to appear on certain web pages
  • in response to certain actions
Beyond that (and how much it costs and how long it takes) they don't care. The last thing they're going to notice is the extension on the file getting loaded into the browser.

1 comment:

Jason said...

I couldn't agree more. The company I just left is going through the exact same folly.

After I left the owner said to the new guy "we need to upgrade to new technologies such as .NET", so they are re-developing a perfectly good e-commerce website build in classic asp to an "out of the box" .NET shopping cart (which will take months to implement and be a massive labour expense).

The site is operating at ~30% increases across the board (which is awesome). Would moving to a .NET app make increase revenue or the site conversion rate? This is where the time and effort should be spent.

You can argue the relative merits of which language / framework is "better" than the other, but it comes down to the fact there are good and bad developers for ANY language. They are as "good", fast, secure etc. as they are made. An in the e-commerce world, the application language doesn't have anything to do with SEO, pervasive SEM, conversion rate optimization etc.