How many times have you tried to buy a product and the salesperson annoys you with extra deals, warranties, options, newsletters, craker-jack prizes, and/or so forth? How many times have you tried to install some software, or download some package with a fancy package manager and felt like the entire internet was plowing its way through your ethernet port? Hi, my name is Cliff and I only want one. I just want the one thing I came for. I don’t want the optimized gcc compiler version-3.3.x. I don’t need the Darwin compatible Linux header files with Wine support. Please don’t pull down yet another JVM. I only want the one thing I came for. Just that one thing. I don’t need or desire a warranty. Don’t sign me up for your weekly newsletter, I can barely keep up with my overloaded inbox now. (Somewhere buried in there are the letters from the online Heroes graphic novel/game/series that I never got to participate in.) Yes, I understand fire insurance is optional and I don’t plan to go dancing around a burning man celebration with my shiny one object of desire and if I did I would gladly accept the consequences of my own poor judgement.
Why is it that people still think you are so enamored with their product that you’ll surely want to be part of their company and evangelize in their vision? Here’s the deal. A product download site should look like, NO! Scratch that!!! A product’s home page should announce three things at the top of the page. These three things should overshadow everything else. They include a brief, pointed description of the problem the product addresses and possibly why it’s better than any competing product. Easily accessible screenshots of the product in action. (It helps if the screenshots are linked from thumbnails.) And… most important… above all else an easy to find download link that refers to an auto-download page which includes a three step or less install guide. (The install instructions should also be included in the downloaded bundle for the guy who’s too impatient to keep the browser tab open long enough to read/notice the install instructions.) Nothing else matters on your product’s home page. Move the pictures of your kitten to your weblog. Add the vision as a footer link with 9 point font. Host your news feed on a separate site. Too many times have I tried to find a package only to be barricaded by the philosophy behind the vision that inspired the package, or news updates regarding “our project is once again active under a new lead” or, “our host is now doubling our bandwidth! Yippee!” I want the binaries then I want to return and get the source. I don’t want to compile your source from make. I don’t want to download your source from git. I don’t even know how to get git???!!! Yes you, your best friend, and your lawyer are all part of the Bzr craze but I still use svn 1.4. I don’t need to be directed to some forum post where you remembered to finally post your idea on page sixteen of some twenty-seven page thread. I understand how these things come up in forum discussions but for pete’s sake (or at least for Cliff’s sake) provide an official download site with a “download here” link. If that’s the only thing on the page then it’s better than scouring the net piecing together random parts of something that you finally find out is a dead end and will never compile/run/light-up on your device/phone/laptop/operating system.
I realize I am guilty of my own frustrating predicament as I write. I remember the unfinished Groovy Invaders, GSpec and some other ideas I left scattered around various sites. Having now felt the pain I promise never to leave an idea undone. I should now build the download site for my Blackberry-Maven plugins. I also need to do the same for my Maven-Gant plugin. That said, don’t be like me. Don’t leave a fellow developer in distress. Finish your thought. And while you’re at it, reply to one of those zero answer posts in the forums from 2006 where the guy was asking about the thing that you specialize in. I hate seeing the same question in one or two forums phrased slightly differently but with zero replies in either place.