OK, who forgot to add the usability?!

In the last week or so, we’ve been looking for an Open Source Groupware/CRM solution. Now I’m sure that some names probably sprung to mind as soon as you read that, try these:

  • SugarCRM
  • phpGroupware
  • phpProjeckt
  • eGroupware
  • dotProject
  • etc…

We’ve installed each and every one of these, and whilst they may or may not have contained all the features we wanted (SugarCRM? especially), one thing they lacked was usability.

It seems that all of the solutions suffer from the programmers over-engineering and I’m pretty sure that most of these developers haven’t even thought about using their own products from a user standpoint.

This is a concern I continually face at work, as my boss puts it “Take off your programmer hat and put on your newbie hat, its time to do some QA”. I admit, its very hard to forget how things *should* work, and to look at how it looks like it should work. The hardest thing to do, is not to give a user complex features, its to give a user complex features in a user friendly, intuitive manner.

I will put out a commendation for SugarCRM based on one thing, I found some security bugs in their latest release (3.5.0a), which I e-mailed them about – without disclosing the exact issues. The next day I had a phone call from one of their developers (lead-something or other :-) and I walked him through the exploits – we then tested them on the next version to be release (3.5.0b, which I was told would be released yesterday) and it had already been fixed. Good stuff :-)

In other somewhat related news, I updated my S9Y install today, I unpacked the tarball and was quite dismayed when it unpacked to the *same* directory as my current install (i.e. the serendipity folder) rather than a version specific folder – I browsed to my blog to survey the damage and low and behold, it was aware that it had happened and prompted me with the upgrade wizard type thing – now *thats* usability.

If anybody has any suggestions on what else to try, please leave a comment or e-mail me – we’re still looking.

– Davey

Hopefully this will fix the whitespace issues in my blog/feed. Yes, I changed the theme. Yes, I will customize it. Yes, I’m sick of the blue too.