The simple answer to this question is very. Consumers expect excellent quality from any and all interactions with a business. High quality experiences spread good word-of-mouth attention for businesses. Poor quality, on the other hand, can be a reputation killer.
Think of your experience with any fast food chain you’ve ever visited. Have you ever ordered food and had a terrible interaction with the staff working that day? Did that make you want to go back?
Would you buy the same make and model car if your previous one constantly required expensive replacement parts? Or buy tires that have a 75% fail rate past 10,000 miles?
I’m guessing the answers to the last three questions are consistently, no. If so, your answers line up with the rest of the country. In the U.S., about 50% of consumers reported experiencing a problem during their most recent shopping trip. Of those, 81% chose not to tell the retailer about the problem and 32% of the silent, unhappy shoppers said they’d be unlikely to recommend that retailer to friends and family.
What Does Poor Quality Mean to Software Companies?
Poor quality in software is even more detrimental to business than in other service or product industries. Software companies, unlike other organizations, have a slower rate of return depending on the product type and format. This delay could mean there is already time and effort invested into the next release, product, or client when a request comes in for fixing an issue.
Companies making software with yearly releases take a huge gamble by releasing a low quality product. It allows competitors to charge in and take their users or gives users time to find a replacement for their software.
Companies that work via contract won’t be rehired if they continually deploy poor quality software. Their slow death is made even worse by negative word-of-mouth after multiple poor quality deployments.
What Is Poor Quality Software?
Quality can be poor in a variety of ways. Some areas of quality are driven by the fact that the user sees things they shouldn’t, or calculations are returning incorrect data. Unfortunately, there is a huge window of quality that is gauged by personal opinion.
As a Quality Analyst, here’s what I look for and describe as poor quality software:
- Any non-branded page or window that says “System Error”, or “Exception Error.” These usually mean that the workflow is 100% halted in the software.
- Backend error messages that are meant for logging purposes but are displayed to the user directly. In most cases the software will still work as intended, but the error can confuse or interrupt the user experience.
- Corrupted or incorrect data in the database that’s a result of saving or copying data incorrectly. Example: Name Ryan Stout saves to the database as Nayr Touts or as ^$#^%$@#%.
- Calculations that do not properly give the correct or expected results (i.e.: 1+1 =3).
- Buttons, links, or any other user interactive points in the software that do the wrong thing or nothing at all.
- Not properly interacting with expected software or hardware devices.
If the user experiences any of the above issues, they are definitely interacting with a poor quality product. The following issues are a bit more subjective and/or not considered major issues unless they are overly present.
- Typos and grammatical issues.
- Inconsistent user interfaces.
- Not displaying errors or required fields to the user.
- Specific browser or device related display issues.
While I focused a lot on what poor quality software is by looking at what are basically flaws and signs of brokenness in the software, nothing can prepare a user for poorly designed software. Poorly designed software is the bane of our industry. Not considering how the end user will use the product or application, or not even caring is a sure-fire way to be considered poor quality in the eyes of the user (who in almost all cases is the most important person in this equation).
Poor Quality = Poor User Experience = A Poor, Poor Future for the Software Company.