“Never test an error condition you don’t know how to handle.” – Steinbach’s Guideline for System Programming
I get one of those Page-A-Day desk calendars every year and this particular page from November 10, 1999 has been up on my cubicle wall ever since. It may sound funny to someone who doesn’t work in the IT industry, but to someone like me, a software developer for 33 years, it’s only funny until it bites you on the back end in the form of database integrity.
When designing a system, it’s important to see the big picture and anticipate not only all possible ways that your software can be used, but also how it may be misused. Through no fault of their own, users are inevitably going to do something – let’s just say – unexpected. It would be very easy to have the program just beep at them and say “Invalid Entry” or worse yet, crash the application, but a forward-thinking developer could offer pre-emptive assistance to avoid the issue before it happens.
For example, by allowing multiple documents to be imported into an order system from Excel spreadsheets, rather than use the application to create them one at a time, it’s imperative that the data be formatted properly, or you can wind up inserting item # 100110 into the quantity or price field. Especially when there are multiple import programs which read unique formats, a little help can go a long way.
By supplying a level of pre-emptive assistance, users may not necessarily need to call a support line when this happens.
Because with a little foresight, the user can also be provided with the necessary roadmap (below) to remedy the inevitable data issues on their own.
“The best way to keep something bad from happening is to see it ahead of time… and you can’t see it if you refuse to face the possibility.” ― William S. Burroughs
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