More customers means more errors



  • Background: my company built a webshop for a client. Whenever someone pays, the bank calls a callback URL to confirm the payment to the site, after which invoices get mailed around etc. Every once in a while, this callback times out - could be a busy site, could be the network, could be anything. Doesn't matter, the bank tries again a few minutes later and it usually goes through then. They do however email the site's owner a notification of the failed attempt (but not of the successful follow-up, unfortunately).

    We just put a new version the site live two weeks ago as per the client's request. Improved home page, improved direction to the ordering page etc.

    He mailed me today: "I'm getting a LOT more of these error messages since the new site went live! I'm worried!"

    Me (thinking: define "a LOT" first please): "Well, I can see in the database that your orders have almost doubled since, so in absolute numbers the amount of timeouts will also have doubled..."

    Him: "So... that's actually good news, right?"

    Me: "Yep."



  • Are you Keanu Reeves?



  • @Monomelodies said:

    [snip]

    He mailed me today: "I'm getting a LOT more of these error messages since the new site went live! I'm worried!"

    Me (thinking: define "a LOT" first please): "Well, I can see in the database that your orders have almost doubled since, so in absolute numbers the amount of timeouts will also have doubled..."

    Him: "So... that's actually good news, right?"

    Me: "Yep."

    A client understood an explanation? The [b]first time[/b]??? WTF!

     



  • @Monomelodies said:

    Me (thinking: define "a LOT" first please): "Well, I can see in the database that your orders have almost doubled since, so in absolute numbers the amount of timeouts will also have doubled..."
     

    Doesn't he get any management reports showing how many purchases he's had over time? I'd at least be interested in site visitor stats and win rate.

    @blakeyrat said:

    Are you Keanu Reeves?

    Duuuuuuude! Woahhhh!

     



  • @Cassidy said:

    @Monomelodies said:

    Me (thinking: define "a LOT" first please): "Well, I can see in the database that your orders have almost doubled since, so in absolute numbers the amount of timeouts will also have doubled..."
     

    Doesn't he get any management reports showing how many purchases he's had over time? I'd at least be interested in site visitor stats and win rate.

    Perhaps. Not everyone can put those two together, and draw that conclusion though. It's easy to underestimate that as a software developer. To his client, the two might seem completely unrelated.



  • @toon said:

    To his client, the two might seem completely unrelated.
     

    I'd have thought the client was more interested in what purchases could possibly be lost first, then equate that back to visitor stats and timeout frequency to see if any revenue was being lost as a result of this action.

    It seems his first course of action was to enquire about the effects (email tsunami) before looking at cause and potential business impact.



  • @toon said:

    Perhaps. Not everyone can put those two together, and draw that conclusion though. It's easy to underestimate that as a software developer. To his client, the two might seem completely unrelated.
     

    Correct. The client is a very smart guy, but has a total blind spot for anything remotely beta flavoured.

     



  • @Cassidy said:

    I'd have thought the client was more interested in what purchases could possibly be lost first, then equate that back to visitor stats and timeout frequency to see if any revenue was being lost as a result of this action.

    It seems his first course of action was to enquire about the effects (email tsunami) before looking at cause and potential business impact.

     

    Also correct. To this smart but non-technical person, an error automatically means "lost sale" (because, you know, what else could it possibly mean?), whereas this isn't so much an error as a notification that a second attempt had to be made (which the user won't ever see anyway; they just have to wait a few minutes longer for their confirmation email).

     



  • @blakeyrat said:

    Are you Keanu Reeves?
     

    Oy you - just because I make my living writing software doesn't automatically imply I'm a crappy actor!



  • @Monomelodies said:

    Also correct. To this smart but non-technical person, an error automatically means "lost sale"
     

    Have to say, mind, he seemed to react in a manner unfitting of clientsfromhell.net - so it sounds he was quite reasonable about it once he understood it a litle better.

    These are the sort of clients I get along with and usually give them the benefit of the doubt.



  • @Cassidy said:

    Have to say, mind, he seemed to react in a manner unfitting of clientsfromhell.net - so it sounds he was quite reasonable about it once he understood it a litle better.

    These are the sort of clients I get along with and usually give them the benefit of the doubt.

     

    Oh, absolutely. We actually get along perfectly - just that it's the micro-equivalent of "link my site on Slashdot!" "Okey-dokey!" "Hey, my site is running slower now! I'm worried it might be due to that change you made." "Yesss... from all the extra traffic?" "Oh." Made me smile, but it's not really a WTF.

    What IS is that this client was convinced he gets lots of traffic from IE7 users and paid (somewhere last year, IIRC) to have his site made to work in that pile of c**p. Yes, they have an Analytics account associated with the site. No, despite my repeated requests no-one ever actually checked what the percentage of IE7-using visitors actually is. (Hint: on all sites I have access to the Analytics account of, it's below 2% these days, at the most.)

    Of course, 2% of a 10m revenue is still a substantial amount, but this site doesn't do that kind of turnover by far, trust me. He's probably set to get return on investment for that, like... well, never, actually. I DID warn him of course, but he was adament. Oh well, at least they pay their bills perfectly on time.

     



  • @Monomelodies said:

    What IS is that this client was convinced he gets lots of traffic from IE7 users
     @Monomelodies said:
    Yes, they have an Analytics account associated with the site. No, despite my repeated requests no-one ever actually checked what the percentage of IE7-using visitors actually is

    so who convinced him, and how? @Monomelodies said:

    Oh well, at least they pay their bills perfectly on time.

    Quite. He's paid for your wasted effort.

     



  • @Monomelodies said:

    @blakeyrat said:
    Are you Keanu Reeves?
    Oy you - just because I make my living writing software doesn't automatically imply I'm a crappy actor!
    Are you still stuck in The Matrix?

     



  • @Cassidy said:

    so who convinced him, and how?
     

    I think they had one or two complaints from users stuck on IE7. Out of thousands of visitors placing hundreds of orders. 1, 2... many!

     



  • @Monomelodies said:

    I think they had one or two complaints from users stuck on IE7.

    The needs of the feeble-minded outweigh the needs of the many.

    Cue story of website maintanance hell:

    Years back, our company webshite only worked/looked properly in IE.  When this was flagged up to the marketing dept that commissioned it, they responsed with "hate to break it to you Cassidy, but according to our visitor stats most of our customers use IE".

    I pointed out that anyone not using IE would never be our customer since they couldn't purchase products through the webshite. Although this caused some frowning, it was dismissed as being a relatively small number.

    Then IE automagically upgraded from 6 to 7 in XP, meaning some things
    no longer worked (yet others did). My original observation about it only working in IE wasn't completely accurate - it only worked properly in IE6. Cue hasty scuffle to update VBscript
    and fix the CSS.

    When one or two penguin-loving organisations (that happened to be large establishments) found that they couldn't use our site either, another hasty update migrated the VBscript over to javascript, as well as more CSS changes, including some unholy hacks to cope with IE foibles.

    Then Opera went free for educational establishments, and all university staff that switched over found they were locked out. Cue another hasty scuffle to tidy the CSS and replace javascript with jQuery.

    Then IE8 came out and someone tried our site to see if it was "IE8-ready" and "IE8-compliant". Most of it already was, but there were minor tweaks. More scrabbling, actually staying ahead of the wave this time.

    Then the MD was given an iPad for Xmas, and apple-loving whiteboys were no longer dismissed as an excluded lunatic fringe.

    Then we scrubbed it all and used Drupal instead, replacing the shitty Javascript menu and rollovers with CSS.

    When pointed out it no longer worked in IE6, the marketing team retorted that nobody uses it anymore (other than several of our large customers that won't upgrade because they rely on some apps that require VBscript/CraptiveX lockin - but transforming our target customer to an excluded one doesn't bother marketing)

    Fun times.



  • @Monomelodies said:

    Oy you - just because I make my living writing software doesn't automatically imply I'm a crappy actor!

    Oy!

    You're like "round-faced Keanu Reeves with his hair from the 90s". If you don't want to be confused for Keanu Reeves don't upload a profile pic that looks like round-faced Keanu Reeves with his hair from the 90s! Damnit. Oy!

    Oy!



  • @Cassidy said:

    The needs of the feeble-minded outweigh the needs of the many.

    Ah well - if the percentage had been sizeable (say, nearing 10% or so) I'd totally have agreed. My main beef was that no one actually checked if this was the case, and I didn't see the order volume going up or anything afterwards.

     



  •  @blakeyrat said:

    @Monomelodies said:
    Oy you - just because I make my living writing software doesn't automatically imply I'm a crappy actor!

    Oy!

    You're like "round-faced Keanu Reeves with his hair from the 90s". If you don't want to be confused for Keanu Reeves don't upload a profile pic that looks like round-faced Keanu Reeves with his hair from the 90s! Damnit. Oy!

    Oy!

    I think your sarcasm-detector may have been off whilst reading my reply. Oh wait, you're American - you don't get sarcasm. Never mind then. (FTR, it doesn't matter *how* I wear my hair, I just look vaguely like Keanu. Unfortunate, but I get by.) (Also, at least my avatar doesn't look like, what? A character from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?)

     


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