Thursday, August 20, 2009

How not to implement updates

One of my development tools is out of date. It kindly tells me this because it has contacted the mothership and determined there is a newer version available. Nice. Increasingly commonplace, but no less nice for that. Nor is it unreasonable, particularly for a development tool, to require me to actively get the latest update instead of having it installed automagically. Which scheme works better depends on preference and context.

On the popup is a web-link looking message saying something like "Visit the website for the latest download". Mind, it knows how to contact the mothership to see that it's out of date. Contacting the mothership to download the new version is not appreciably harder.

I click on the link. It puts me on the home page, not the download page. The download area is fairly inconspicuous amongst several other buttons at the top of the page. Fine.

Up comes a download page with a bunch of Google ads. For similar but competing tools. The actual download I want is clear off the screen below the decoy ads. How messed up is that?

To summarize:
  1. No automatic download. Please visit our website.
  2. You don't go to the downloads page but to a fairly cluttered home page with the downloads somewhere on it.
  3. When you get there, the real download is hidden by decoys advertising competitors.
That's about three steps too many -- a trifecta of annoyances. Good thing the tool itself is quite useful and well-written. And rarely needs updates.

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