The Diagnosis: Stuff Blind
My wife and I comment on “stuff blindness” – the ability to “not see” things we leave lying around the house. She doesn’t notice elastic hair bands that she takes out wherever she happens to be sitting. I don’t notice when I leave a pair of pliers or a screwdriver on a counter. Perhaps each of us has just become used to the ubiquity of that thing, or maybe some inner voice is telling us that we are going to need it again soon, so why put it away? Whatever the reason, each is unaware that there is a problem with that thing being there.
Consistency is Not Key – Most apps are pretty specific about search terms. It’s an extremely involved task for programmers to build in “fuzzy logic.” Which means “McKinley Ave.” is not the same thing as “McKinley Avenue”. Type either of these as a whole, and you will not find the other. Another common problem data type is phone numbers — some people like to type (xxx) xxx-xxxx, while others prefer xxx-xxx-xxxx, or even xxx.xxx.xxxx if they are the artistic type. In my experience, it’s difficult to teach and enforce a set of rules for people to remember for this sort of thing, although it can be done. More on this later.
The Prognosis: 20-20 Vision
The news is good. Veteran developers such as myself are experienced at not only healing such ailing data as that described above, but we are even better at building clean, integrated environments for housing it once it’s healthy. Here are the keys to healthy data storage.
Data should allow for the possibility that there are more than one of some things. A classic example is people who have more than one phone number, or several email addresses. We design every system to allow unlimited entry of this type of data, to avoid the “just put it anywhere” mentality.
Data entry should make it easy to follow the rules. If you always want 10-digit US phone numbers to follow the (xxx) xxx-xxxx format, we will format them for you, regardless of how you enter them. No one has to remember how it’s supposed to be done — it just works.
Eliminate the need for a cluster of independent apps. You should be able to accomplish everything you need with one well-constructed business system that is custom-designed to meet all of your needs. You may have a favorite or required-use accounting system to also work with, but that can be integrated to share information with the business system, so that the two are tightly integrated and always in sync.
Migrating data between older systems like those described above usually comes later in the development process. When we build you a new app, we plan it very carefully to accommodate the unique needs of your company or organization. We have the vision to see the endpoint for your new business system and can help smooth the way to a better, more functional, revenue-saving way of doing things.