Ignoring the Peril of the Badmins

A commenter recently asked if I had heard the excuse, “It’s impossible to write idiot proof code because idiots are so damn inventive.” Well, I don’t hear that one very often because the excuse itself implies a flaw in the code, and developers rarely admit that outside, perhaps, the circle of other developers. Because THEY ARE LIKE THE GODS!

However, developers often justify their sloth for administrative applications. “Admins will use this,” they say, explaining why they’re not bothering to build a functioning user interface or enforcing any sort of data validation. As such, the tools in question often look like something that got an incomplete grade in a community college Introduction to Programming class. Web applications are missing images, fields and controls are laid out in the order in which the developer thought of them, and you can enter bad data directly that will have an immediate adverse impact on the application the adminster is adminstrating.

You developers sneaking a peak at this Web site are shrugging your shoulders or nodding in agreement right now, aren’t you?

Well, dear reader, if you’re in QA or otherwise have a head upon your shoulders, you understand that the developers hubristically think that their intent will actually direct the users’ and clients’ actions. However, actual deployment of many systems shows that those incorrigible users will use the applications with only the constraints in the software, not the constraints in the developers’ minds. Once the programs are out in the wild, people get assigned administrative privileges because they’re administrative staff, not because they’re computer power users who like to open terminal windows for the comfort of the dark background and monospace font. Assistants and receptionists are unleashed on things that have no safety nets, and all sorts of havoc ensues. Not fun havoc, which is what QA does, but emergency klaxons sound havoc that costs the software company money to fix.

Because the developers think that admins are like themselves, that is, omnipotent and infallible.

I’m reminded of a project that happened when the developers created an administrative interface for themselves. Nobody in the organization, particularly the developers themselves, wanted to expend the lucre and the time to make the administrative interface since the only people who would use it were the developers themselves. Then those developers left the organization. Suddenly, other people had to use the ill-conceived and undocumented interfaces for day to day operations. A good time was had by all, at least those in QA who got to repeat, “We told you so.”

So remember these lessons, QA, because developers and other IT staff will not: Administrative applications need to hold to the high standards as other applications should, regardless of the bleating of the developers who would rather slowly make their way through the show with zefrank‘s archives than do things the right way.

No Responses to “Ignoring the Peril of the Badmins”

  1. The QA Slayer Says:

    you: “Suddenly, other people had to use the ill-conceived and undocumented interfaces for day to day operations. ”

    me: ummm… ok, I’ll let you in on a little secret. That’s called “Job Security”, it’s an old developer trick.

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