26 June 2023
4 mins read

Getting User Feedback

And taking a few steps back

Shashwat TheTrio

It’s been another couple of weeks since my last blog post and unlike the last time where I had done a lot on the technical side of things, this time I focused more on contacting users and getting to know how they think the project is coming along. So let’s get to it!

Note: This is my 3rd Bi-Weekly blog. You can find the rest of them here


As always, I’ll provide a quick summary for those who don’t want to read the entire blog post. So here goes - I spent most of my time finding and connecting with users who were interested in getting involved with the project. Then came the task of finding a time convenient for both of us to meet(timezones are hard!) and after a few interviews, I finally had a good idea of what the consensus was.

I also nixed the custom PetScan builder after I ran into some issues that would require a lot of work to fix satisfactorily. It feels kinda bad to have to drop a feature - especially one that I had spent most of my time on - but alas, earwax

And now, let’s get into the details!

User Interviews

Sage and I had sent out emails on the Dashboard’s mailing list, messages on Telegram, and asked folks live during the Dashboard’s office hours meeting to find people who were interested in getting involved with the project. We got a few responses and while I couldn’t get a call with all of them, I did manage to get a couple of interviews done, with another one scheduled for next week.

I know I’ve said this before, but so often, there’s such a disconnect between the developers and the users of a project. I think it’s really important to get feedback from the people who are going to use the software you’re building. It’s easy to get caught up in the technical details and forget about the people who are going to use the software.

Having never really used the Dashboard, I was in a similar position. I could implement a feature you told me about, but I wouldn’t be able to come up with something new and useful on my own. And that’s where the user interviews came in.

I won’t go into the specifics since they require a fair bit of context to understand, but suffice it to say, my notion document is now filled with a lot of great ideas and suggestions - some of which I’ve already shipped!

Bukola and Kirsty - If you’re reading this - thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me! I really appreciate it :-)

Custom Petscan Builder

This was the feature that I was most excited about. PetScan is a humongous tool with a lot of options and it can be quite daunting to use. The idea was to create a custom builder that would allow users to bypass that complexity by using a simpler UI with fewer options.

Unfortunately, having to handle all the edge cases and at the same time, figuring out which options made sense from a user perspective turned out to be a lot more work than I had anticipated. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to handle the edge cases and in the end, I decided that it would be better to just drop the feature.

There’s a reason PetScan is so complex - it’s because it’s trying to solve a complex problem. Dialing the complexity down sounds easy - at least it did to me - just remove the options that no one uses! But keeping the tool consistent with what the user’s expectations are was insanely difficult - not to mention the technical differences between how the Dashboard and PetScan represent a wiki.

I still hope to get a more targeted version of this feature out in the future, but for now, this is the end of the road for the custom PetScan builder.

What’s Next

I am fairly happy with how the project is coming along. I’ve been able to stick to the timeline I had set for myself in the proposal and while I did have to drop the custom PetScan builder, I ended up learning a lot along the way.

Next up, I’m mostly going to be writing tests for the things I’ve already implemented and fixing any bugs that I find.

And that’s it for this blog post! I’ll see you in the next one!


GSoC GSoC-23