The Power of First Impression

After months of ZIPping up the GhostDoc source files every now and then, I finally have a source code management solution running (better late than never ;-). I've built and set up a server from spare parts, mainly to be used for storing files (e.g. backups and VMWare images), on which I installed SourceGear Vault. Using SourceSafe at work, this was an obvious choice for me. Usually I don't shy away from learning new things, but this time I didn't want to invest time to learn to use a system with a different philosophy (like e.g. SubVersion).

Now I have to admit a few things: While there are quite a few things I'm really good at, I have no or only superficial knowledge when it comes to administering/configuring

  • databases
  • IIS
  • applications

So this is me, not wanting to invest a lot of time, and I want to install a product that

  • uses a database (MSDE in my case, which I have never installed before)
  • is running on IIS
  • is an application

And you know what? I got things running without any problems worth mentioning. The combination of a good installer (e.g. no editing of configuration files required) and an installation guide on the product's website with lots of screenshots enabled me to install this product. Creating a repository was also pretty easy and just a matter of minutes.

So I'm happy to report that GhostDoc is now under source control.

Maybe it turns out that I just installed the worst product imaginable. Maybe things go wrong from now on in every imaginable way. But right now I trust this product. It just feels right. From the splash screen (nice, but not too fancy) up to the help file (not really spectacular, but it was able to answer the few questions I had). Everything made good first impression.

Now there's another application I installed on the server (I will not mention the name here, as it would be pretty unfair). When I start it, I get a "SqlException: SQL Server does not exist or access denied" error message. I couldn't find what to do in the documentation, the product's website does not have a FAQ, there's no forum, only a email address I can write to. This is what I'll to, because I'm pretty sure that once things are running, the application will be what I was looking for. But I guess you agree that the first impression is spoiled.

As a developer I know that I'm completely unfair here, but as a customer (even though in both cases I don't have to pay as a single user) I don't care about being fair. Whether you like it or not, the first impression plays a vital role how users view your software.

So do yourself a favor: When you release software (even if it's just a small tool), invest enough time in what could be called "the most important minutes" of your program. After a couple of months since the release of GhostDoc, I'm happy to notice people praise the "out of the box experience". Let me tell you it didn't come easy. Things weren't  perfect from a start and a lot of time and testing went into getting things right. I actually bought VMWare Workstation especially for testing GhostDoc on different system configurations (virtual machines simply rock, period). Did all the effort pay of? After all, I could have implemented lots and lots of features, so GhostDoc would produce less funny results in certain situations and would be as useful as I know it could be. But all I can say is yes, it was worth the effort. GhostDoc was downloaded a bit more than 1000 times (all versions combined) and while this may not be too impressive, I'm proud that I didn't receive a single question about the first steps. I receive bugs and feature requests regarding the text generation, people wanting to tweak things, people wanting to code their own rules, but not a single of those "I can't get it to run, what now?" questions that quickly eat away lots of time from actually developing software.



  • Hi,

    I've used Sourcegear Vault professionally for some 2 years (since version 1.0) and I loved it! It's a fast, robust system that even works great when you use it remotely (because it's a server app). I think you made the right choice.

  • I agree with your sentiments about first impressions. Ironically, however, I came accross your post looking for a solution to a problem with exactly the same error - coming from the SourceGear Vault installation! I guess it just goes to emphasise your core points, though. And by the way, I've been using GhostDoc for several years now, and it rocks! Keep up the good work...

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