Do you send feedback to software manufacturers? You should!

I rather frequently send feedback to the manufacturers of various software packages I use. Sometimes my suggestions or comments are received enthusiastically, sometimes they’re merely acknowledged, and yet sometimes I never hear back from the software manufacturer in question. In most cases, however, the maker of the software is happy to receive feedback on their creation, and also in many cases if there was a problem or a feature request, they take action on it: the described problem is corrected, or the requested feature is added in the next release (or sometimes sooner with a patch).

How the comments are received seems to often correlate with at least two factors: whether the feedback was solicited, and the size of the outfit. Perhaps a bit paradoxically smaller the organization, often more rapid the response. This has probably its roots in a more developed “ownership” of the product in question by a specific person or a small group than in large companies in which various developers might develop a segment of a software, but none of them feel like the software would be specifically “their” product. Larger organizations often say they appreciate and welcome feedback but—perhaps due to the large number of users sending them feedback—one rarely hears back from them (beyond an automated “thanks”). Looking at the subsequent version of their software it’s often equally difficult to tell whether my comments specifically resulted in anything. At least the larger software companies like Adobe tally all the feedback they receive to identify the most requested features, and then provide something that covers as many requests as well as possible (in case of Adobe I liked their extensive push to collect opinions from the Photoshop users while CS2 was under development; they may have repeated the process with CS3). While giving a company with large number of customers a better idea how to prioritize their product development, this process obscures the direct relationship between a specific feedback message and a future feature addition or a bug fix. However, as long as the commented problem is somehow circumvented or the requested functionality achieved—even though it might not be implemented exactly as was suggested in the feedback—I suppose it’s not so important to know if it was really my message that made the difference (either directly, or as a “vote” for a new feature or fix).

Nevertheless I think it’s a good practice to provide feedback as it generally results in improved software. Often the developers may be “too close” to their product, and as such may have missed something that appears very obvious to the user.