Software quality: Don’t ignore the small things

Ben Barden
3 min readJul 3, 2023

Product feedback can come in all shapes and sizes.

The “Eureka!” idea that you want to do immediately.

The request that sounds good, but is a huge amount of work.

The things that don’t really fit with the current product strategy, but you’ll note them and maybe look at them in the future.

Photo by Andrew George on Unsplash

Minor changes

Then there are the minor things.

The UI niggles.

The small layout bug in a certain browser.

A setting that doesn’t work quite right, some of the time.

An old page that hasn’t been brought up to date with the latest design.

Navigation links that haven’t been updated to add new pages, or remove old ones.

Basically, the things that keep getting pushed down the list.

Photo by Luis Villasmil on Unsplash

Why do these things get missed?

Teams are busy.

As a product manager, you’ll want to focus the team’s efforts on the high value items first. The smaller things might not be worth doing.

However, if a lot of small issues build up, it can make a product feel neglected, and not much fun to use.

Also, if it becomes acceptable to ignore small details, teams may get sloppy — and quality can be affected.

It’s a broken window situation.

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Fix it — or board it up

In The Pragmatic Programmer, there’s a section called Software Entropy that mentions broken windows. I’d like to highlight this quote:

Don’t leave “broken windows” (bad designs, wrong decisions, or poor code) unrepaired. Fix each one as soon as it is discovered. If there is insufficient time to fix it properly, then board it up. Perhaps you can comment out the offending code, or display a “Not Implemented” message, or substitute dummy data instead. Take some action to prevent further damage and to show that you’re on top of the situation.

If something’s broken, fix it. If it’s not used anymore, remove it.

Photo by Emmanuel Ikwuegbu on Unsplash

What you don’t know can’t hurt you?

Maybe you don’t know about some of the issues users are facing with your product.

Speak to users. Run surveys. Try the product yourself — try to break it.

If you find small quirks, bugs, and undesired behaviour, keep a note of these. Then gather up your notes and feedback and see how many of these small issues exist in each part of the product.

Lots of issues concentrated in one part of your product can be really annoying, and lead to frustration among your users.

How to tackle the issues

You don’t need to take focus away from your high value goals. But it’s important to set aside time to address the small issues too.

You could tackle a few issues per week.

You could focus on one area of the product, and include enhancements as well as small issues. Some of the enhancements could render the issues moot.

Or, you could set aside a whole day every few weeks to clear lots of them off at once.

Remember — don’t ignore them! Quality is a good trait for your product to have.