A Little Bit Broken Is Still Broken

Engineers and product people tend to think about issues as frequency distributions. How many users does this impact? How severe is it? But this misses one inescapable truth from a user’s perspective: a little bit broken is still broken.

I was staying at a hotel recently that highlights the point.

The shower worked but would occilate between lukewarm, cold, and burning hot. I could still bathe by hiding from the shower head every 3 seconds. Needless to say, it was frustrating and uncomfortable.

I could imagine this problem being triaged by a product team.

“A user is reporting a temperature issue with the shower.”

“Well, how many users have this problem?”

“Only one.”

“How bad is it?”

“There is a workaround and they can still bathe.”

“We’ll come back to it.”

The simple solution to avoiding these kinds of low-fidelity histogram-based prioritization is to use the product. Within 1 minute of actually trying to use it for themselves, this figurative product team would put this issue directly at the top of the list.

See also: