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9

Should app developers provide support contacts?

Microsoft has been continuously in the community and critic spotlight with their handling of the recent update issues. Now heads are turning to the decision in no longer enforcing support contact means to be supplied in apps for users to use to approach developers. Was this a wrong move by the software giant?

I am in agreement with a select number of developers who have already voiced concerns - there has to be some level of quality control after an application (or game) has made it to the Marketplace and has begun racking in downloads. Should a user locate a genuine bug, or experiences issues with the application, there has to be some way to get in touch with the developer to receive support.

As well as bug reporting and support, for any developer who begins to skip providing a support channel, they will be missing the golden opportunity for potential feedback from users in how to further improve their application(s). I have often got in contact with developers with regards to a feature that I feel should be present, or simply to enquire as to how development is progressing and what the roadmap currently looks like.

You can compare this to purchasing hardware (or software) from a company and noticing there is no contactable email, address or phone number. Puzzled, you continue to deploy the hardware or install the software and begin using the purchased product. Days down the line you come across a serious hardware fault or issue with the software and require immediate assistance. What then? Where does your voice reach a destination where your cries are somewhat understandable (except all the swearing of course)?

Back to WP7 and the matter at hand I am under the obvious impression this could impact the Marketplace in a negative way. Reviews and ratings provided by the community are the main variables that your decision-making considers when choosing to download (and purchase) an app or not. Should these be cluttered with bug reports and ranting instead of constructive criticism and feedback or ratings being marked low due to the app malfunctioning, this will blow potential users downloading. A simple support email present solves this. 

I'm not too sure why Microsoft has decided to take this approach when they have established such a high level of quality in applications and the user experience - especially the support side of things. Todd Brix, head of Marketplace and Developer Experience Product Management (MDEPM for short?), was approached by ZDNet for some answers. Todd explained in a reply that they "have revised [their] certification criteria for applications submitted to the Marketplace to make the inclusion of consumer support contact information a highly recommended, but optional, practice."

Moving onto to reasoning for the alteration:

"While we still believe and will continue to share data and encourage developers to voluntarily provide customer support contact information as part of their app or game experience, we no longer think it is right to fail an app or preclude it from being published because a developer either overlooked or did not want to provide such contact support information."

I have to halt the conversation for a brief moment and disagree with what Todd asserted. I believe it’s more than just to disapprove an application due to no support details being included, how hard is it to include a dedicated email address at the very least? Phonealytics, by developer Luke Lowrey, has an included "Feedback" link in the settings that opens up the mail app with a recipient added. I've spoken to him too - nice guy. Point being, it's not difficult to implement means of contact.

Returning to Todd's statements, he believes the Marketplace reviews and rating submissions will remain justified.

"We believe the market and consumers are better able to decide whether a developer’s decision to provide customer support contact information indicates a pride of creation and a mechanism to get direct customer feedback or not. The data we have collected and observed suggests that apps that include customer support contact information are better rated, downloaded more often, and result in better developer results and a better customer experience."

With this change that has been put forward, along with other reports and news around Microsoft's questionable user experience based decisions. One begs to consider the possibility that they may be focusing too heavily on denting Apple and Google with their retrospect OS instead of establishing a solid user base with strong satisfaction foundations. Sure, things may look rosy and peachy for the time being, but who's to say more debatable decisions wont be made in the near future. I just hope Microsoft learn lessons quickly. 

What are your views on this predicament? Do you believe Microsoft should have developers provide contactable details to customers/users?

Source: ZDNet

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Reader comments

Should app developers provide support contacts?

9 Comments

I agree, Richard. There is no benefit to the consumer when they can't contact developers about support issues. I hope Microsoft changes their mind on this.

I agree that MS made the wrong decision here. Take for instance Beezz. I like the app, but there are problems and bugs with it. Yet, no official way to contact the developer, except his Twitter account. Yet, the developer ignores messages, and hasn't responded to anyting in well over a month. App vendors should always provide a means to get support.

As a developer I think this is wrong move on MS part, they should force it on developers, not make it "highly recommended".Anyway I would recommend to all developers out there to include contact info even if it is not required now by Microsoft.

Definetly a bad move. Like the article mentioned, without a way to contact the developer with issues, their reviews in the marketplace are gonna be full of people saying what is wrong with the game and will sway peoples opionions when they go to download. The game/app may genuinely be good and entertaining with just a few issues to be fixed but people won't know that if all they see in the reviews section is what's wrong with the app.I also would like to see them make adding a changelog to app updates mandatory. The Harvest, Ilomilo and Project Sunburst all had updates this past week but I had no clue what was changing with any of them.

if it was forced, couldnt devs just put false email as contact just to get past the requirement?I dont see how anyone could FORCE a developer to provide support. I think they went with the right decision.

thanks for the link, Richard; in fact something else struck me talking about this issue with developers. There's no way to tell in advance on the phone whether an app will have support or not - so the user can't make an informed decision. (A few other thoughts at http://www.zdnet.co.uk/blogs/500-words-into-the-future-10014052/windows-...)Also, I've yet to hear from a single developer saying they don't want to include a point of contact; Todd Brix told me the change was down to developer feedback. Maybe no-one wants to admit to not wanting to support users?

I think some people here need to get a little more real world. Many of the apps you'll be finding in the marketplace will be developed by kids in bedrooms in their spare time. You'll spend a minimal amount on the app, maybe even get it for free. What kind of support are you expecting? I completely agree that it's good to have a support contact for feedback etc. but EXPECTING support is frankly unrealistic. An app might take a week to develop and only sell to three people. The developer might not even continue developing after six months of making no money. Do you seriously expect long term support? Have you paid a reasonable sum to expect long term support? Do you expect free support from other things that you buy?I suggest that people take advantage of trial downloads, and if they're not happy with the quality of an app and there's not an active support alias then don't buy it. Microsoft seem to be just recognising that REQUIRING support isn't practical or enforcable. If you're a customer and you want support then look for an app that offers it.