Umbraco is a fantastic product. However, It’s not perfect and most likely will never be. That is for some a controversial statement, but nevertheless, is it true. And why is that? Well because of ourselves, as we as users constantly change. We change our minds and perception of how we think a product should feel and act. We expect more and more and we have a natural desire to both challenge ourselves and the products that we are surrounded with. We will never be satisfied and thank god for that!
I was invited to write a blog post for this years 24 days in Umbraco about how we in the Umbraco Support team experience and deal with all the feedback that we get from our users. I had no doubt that I wanted to share with you what I think is a very valuable resource and truly important part of the life cycle in Umbraco, which is feedback from both happy, excited, amazed but also frustrated, unimpressed and even angry users. And most importantly, what we do with this.
So why me?
2 years and some months and days ago I was hired at Umbraco HQ. Me and Georgs started together as supporters and we became the number 3 and 4 members of the team. At that point, the definition of Umbraco Support was very much in the making. Everything from the support platforms to the opening hours was something we tested and talked a lot about. We had to decide what we wanted to promise our customers and what we could do to meet those promises. It was extremely interesting to be a part of.
Soon after we had to scale the team, and with the introduction of Sofie we started to feel like a real team in the company. And as with most real teams came also the need for a team leader. I was lucky to be asked if this was something I would do and of course I said yes. I am today still the team leader of the Umbraco Support, a nine men and woman big team and we continue to grow.
We are helping more than 1000 users every month
Each month we are helping a lot of users, in fact we answered and helped 1354 times in October on our Chat and Ticket support platforms. We have a global audience and this of course has some challenges to it in terms of response times and providing fast and effective support. What we have done to face this challenge is, that we've extended our opening hours from normal office hours to 9.00 am to 05.00 pm. This means that we actually answer more than 60% of our users within the first 60 minutes. It means a lot to reply fast and provide efficient support to our users. We will keep adjusting as we and the market grow and where the help is needed.
Why is the support so important to Umbraco?
Besides from the most obvious reason; to help our users with any challenges or issues she or he might face, there is an equally important reason to why. Simply, that we need feedback on the product to learn how it behaves or misbehaves out in the real world. Only this way can we be sure that the product is moving in the right direction. Our job in support is not only to tell and teach users how to use our products, our job is also to listen to our users and comprehend the feedback. And by that know how to distribute the information through the internal channels.
We work proactively to set a structure that enables us to collect valuable feedback. We have recently launched a new issue tracker including a request for new features. This goes very well hand-in-hand with the wonderful open source spirit and how our users contribute to the code. You can read more of that, in the blog post right here: https://umbraco.com/blog/a-new-take-on-the-umbraco-issue-tracker/
Furthermore, we have a culture at HQ where we’re almost obliged to challenge the products and speak out when we feel something could be improved. Because if we don’t do this ourselves, how could we ever enhance and recommend our users to do so?
What is the actual process?
Let me explain the typical processes for how we handle the feedback that we get. Very often it is through our email and chat support channels that we learn from our users if we have a bug, a request for a new feature or just some great thoughts and ideas about our products.
If a user reports a bug in one of our products, we do have a specific channel to handle this, that is the Issue Tracker. So let’s say you want to report an issue with Umbraco Forms, then you can visit the Issue Tracker for Umbraco Forms right here: https://github.com/umbraco/Umbraco.Forms.Issues/issues
The very first step is for the support team to confirm that we have this bug, simply by reproducing it. Once the bug is identified and reproduced, the next step is to actually have the user submit the issue report in the Issue Tracker. This is because we can’t imagine anyone else being better at explaining what the bug is but the user herself.
Of course, we will step in and help to submit the issue on the Issue Tracker if a user asks us to.
What will happen next is that the wonderful Umbraco Developer team will evaluate on the submitted issues when they have their biweekly sprint planning. It is, of course, a delicate process and it can be very difficult to find a balance of urgency and bugs that simply fits with the overall development of the upcoming sprint and cycle. We do fix a lot of bugs along the way and we truly believe that the best Umbraco version is always the latest.
The process for dealing with feature requests is almost similar to how we deal with bug reporting. We welcome all feature requests and love to hear about our users' thoughts and ideas about how the product can be improved and developed. To make sure that the Umbraco Developers can have a look at the features requested they also have to be submitted in our Issue Tracker for a review and may then afterwards be considered for upcoming sprints.
We are very lucky to have a community that not only submits bug reports and feature requests but in fact, submits a lot of pull requests to fix and improve the CMS. We have recently formalized the process and established a dedicated team to handle all incoming pull requests, making sure all pull requests are handled in a professional and timely manner - whether they get merged or not. And if you want to learn more about this, I highly recommend that you will follow the blog posts by our very own Sebastiaan Jansen, as he often releases news and statuses from this work. Find one here: https://umbraco.com/blog/the-pr-team-chronicles-august-and-september-2018/
An example and a bit about the future
A great example of when we have listened to our users was when we recently launched a feature to our baseline functionality on the Cloud. This new feature means that you can now push minor upgrades to the child sites of a baseline project. The feature was a result of a direct request from a Cloud user (If you’re curious, you can read all about this new feature in this blog post: https://umbraco.com/blog/improvements-to-umbraco-baseline/).
Also, the highly anticipated and long waited Umbraco version 8 is just around the corner. With this release, we can truly say that the users, and in particular the editors, have been a fundamental key to where this version lands. Based on feedback we’ll get an Umbraco version where the editor experience will be much more in focus compared to previous versions. Especially the introduction of infinite editing in V8 is a huge thing for editors and wouldn’t have been possible without the help from a dear friend of the house and a true Umbraco enthusiast. I know that a bunch of blog posts, festival talks and maybe even a blog post in this round of 24days already is about this new major Umbraco release. Personally, I can’t wait to have it released and I’m sure that you can’t either :)
I hope that you have found this small article useful and worth reading. I am always available if you have questions….. Or feedback ;)
Merry Christmas :)
Jim Aabenholt Jensen
Jim is on Twitter as @Aabenholt