better software through user-centered design

It was not surprising to come on board with my current employer to find a custom in-house built development framework that was a total hybrid approach between WebForms (ewe) and ASP.Net MVC. This scenario plays out every day in software design shops all over the place. Upon arrival, I was greeted well with constant warning of this limited and poorly written framework. Not only does it violate loads of programming standards and pattern, but encourages the constant use of bad practices. All who work with this framework agree, it must go.

Having had experience in this scenario before, and having been fortunate enough to have high-end developers as mentors, I knew I could help. With the help of a colleague, we presented a new ASP.NET MVC 3 solution. Combining web solutions into one using Areas, and simplifying just about every aspect of the solution, we presented to the development team with excitement and great anticipation.

Remembering that everyone “hates” the existing framework, the thought was that they would be excited to jump into a shiny new, clean solution….they weren’t. The push back and hostile resistance to anything new was shocking. The room was filled with questions such as “why would we upgrade to Visual Studio 2010”? and “why would we use ASP.Net 4.0”? The old ways work best right?

Throughout the process of trying to encourage others to examine the best practices put in place in the new solution, I was shocked to get total push-back and being fought on just about every aspect of the new design. The push-back came in the form of saying “we can use what we have” and “the old framework just needs updated”.

The same developers who wanted the old framework gone, now cherish it’s existence. A very interesting observation in human social behavior to say the least. They were not given input in the early stages of new development, and I cannot help but wonder if that is the sole reason for the resistance. Not the threat of a glamorous new technology, but the threat of anything new, and not having control over it.

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