Paragraphs on software development
The last week’s installment had paragraphs on software development, which was cut short in some papers due to my bungling of submission deadline. Funny thing is my cartoon like graphics made it to print, but readers must have been puzzled for not having any text related to the picture.
So I will repeat the missed section with some changes and embellishment. A reader from New York had inquired back some months ago as follows: I’m looking to automate a sales process for the event industry. It gives instant custom service proposals to customers and helps build strong sales leads for the software’s user. What I really am looking for is someone who can help me understand if a patent is valuable for my idea, and if so- how it can be done without the $50,000 quotes I’ve been given. The software is already in development. Can you help?
This reader wishes to develop a scheduling software for his industry, which handles “event”. There is no device more suitable for scheduling than computers, so many scheduling software had been developed for various purposes since personal computers have become everyday thing. From what he sent, it isn’t clear just what he meant by “event” (another example of Paragrela – inventor’s habit of secrecy), but in terms of general concept, an even occurs on a spot on the time line. But, once the event starts, the scale of time measurement must be much more detailed or expanded. Take a wedding, for an example. It takes place, say, on a specific Saturday afternoon. However, within the wedding event, time measure must be much more amplified to detail the proceeding. In many cases there are parallel events in synchronism with the main event such as the band or DJ’s activity. Moreover, the placement of dinner ware, various accessories on the table, seating arrangement in conjunction with table numbers etc etc. They all have to be done without any flaw.
This reader is interested in the “sales” process, which means it involves scheduling, bill of material (or BOM) including engaging various entertainment personnel, venue selection, limousine engagement, mailing of invitation, and all that associated with the wedding. And that all culminates to “expense and some profit”, which becomes a quotation to the marrying couple. In the foregoing paragraph I presented this case as a scheduling software for weddings. But that is just one specific case for this scheduling software, I assume. The reader is interested in developing a software that covers all possible events,
Most scheduling software can be developed from combination of database software such as Microsoft Access or FileMaker, two basic popular software in the market. There are many scheduling programs now available so the reader MUST check if what he wants to write is unique and isn’t covered by any existing software.
The most important feature of any software is “User Experience” or simply UX. If the user faces confusing display, or difficulty in getting things done, and/or the screen freezes up and restarting is necessary, the software is a failure even if it does what it was supposed to do. Majority of software developers newly coming into this space doesn’t appreciate the importance of testing the software by having as many people as possible trying to use it. Thus, UX test is as important or more important than the actual programing of the basic codes of the software. Ideally an user for the first time in his/her life could use and accomplish the purpose of the software, that is the ultimate success. Believe me that just doesn’t happen very often. Software code writers often want to quit programming right after he/she finishes programming. To them testing the software is a tedious and boring process they’d rather not do.
Any software program MUST be tested by a fairly large focus group so that there are no bugs, and data entry is easily done by the people with litt who know little about the software. The reader felt that his vendor quoted $50,000 for development, and he felt that excessive. In my opinion the amount is not excessive high, and it could be lowered but not by much. The reason is that the reader didn’t account for the heavy UX testing, that must be done before the software could be marketed.
The last question, and probably the most important question the reader is wondering is that of patentability. Can this software be patent protected. My guess is negative. A software is like writing a novel in English. A small change in the text could change the whole direction of the novel. Anyone could circumvent this novel, and go on to another novel that does similar thing by slightly different way. Therefore, attempting to apply for a patent isn’t advisable. See FIG 2 of Sunday November 24th.