Louanne Poisson Joins Balsamiq

It is my great pleasure to introduce to you Louanne Poisson, who joined Balsamiq as Regina della Qualita', which is italian for Queen of Quality. She is based in Boston, MA.

The tweet-size announcement: Louanne will be doing QA, tech support and help us with the docs.

A little more detail

  • Louanne has over 20 years experience as a Quality Assurance Engineer (trust me, she's REALLY good at it). Having her on board will help us maintain and even improve the quality of our products going forward.
  • Louanne is also a Mockups power-user, so she can help us provide better technical support via email and our forums.
  • Last but not least, Louanne can make even the most complex subjects easy to understand. She'll be putting that skill to good use in our product's documentation and tutorials.

The full story - long but good!

The first interactions I had with Louanne were similar to the ones we have with many customers: she trialed Mockups for a few days, then purchased a license on 11/25/2009. On the next day she sent us a nice little feature request (the ability to rearrange tabs in the application). I told her we were working on it and sent her to the pre-release version to help us test it. After a couple of weeks, things started going south: she was still using the (buggy) pre-release version, and found two bugs, one of which was quite serious. We fixed them, thanked her for her help and kept going on our way.

By now it was Christmas time, things slowed down and everyone was merry...

...well, not quite. I woke up on Dec 28th to read this:

From: Louanne Poisson
Date: Mon, Dec 28, 2009 at 5:25 AM
Subject: Very, very disappointed in your product...
To: support@balsamiq.com

Hello,

You have a very impressive product and company, but you have fallen into the same trap as every other software company. You do not value quality. It does not help me to have a beautiful product if it cannot hold up even a few days without my encountering major bugs. It is not OK to ship software that is not tested. So many software companies think they are so smart because they can design, build and ship nice software. However, you cannot shortchange the quality assurance and/or testing phase. I am going to try to find something else to use. Just don't think you can kick the can of quality down the road. Get someone in to test.

I have been working all weekend to send an email with a pdf of my work and when I export to pdf all my links are gone, not working--I don't really know and don't care anymore. I have had this type of disappointment with your product before (another long weekend of fighting with it and finding bugs.) I consider this my $79 worth of being able to tell you off. Don't bother writing back.

Louanne Poisson

Ouch. That hurt me like a punch in the stomach. Not quite sure of what to reply, I decided to cook some breakfast to cool down and think about it. At 10am, I sent her this:

From: Peldi Guilizzoni, Balsamiq Studios
Date: Mon, Dec 28, 2009 at 10:11 AM
Subject: Re: Very, very disappointed in your product...
To: Louanne Poisson
Cc: support@balsamiq.com

Hello Louanne!

My, what an rough email to wake up to! πŸ™‚

Ok, first thing first: I'm sorry. And I'm not just saying that, I really am. I'm sorry for wasting your time, I'm sorry for causing you frustration and I'm very sorry to have lost your trust through my buggy software.

I have just issued you a full refund, which is small consolation I know.

As for the quality issue, you're right, I have let the quality of Mockups slip up in the last couple of weeks (it should be all fixed now, more on that later), in an effort to add more features. Software has a life on its own...periods of growth alternate with periods of maturity...you add some features, then you fix it all up as the edge cases are revealed, then you add more. Unfortunately you hit us right in the middle of a growth spurt, right when Mockups hit its teens...ouch! It's a rough time but we will survive it, we'll have to make sure we focus on quality more and slow down a bit going forward.

Your email is just what I needed to realize this, so thank you.

Now, coming to your PDF issue: were you using the pre-release version by any chance? I'm not aware of any issues with PDF on the main 1.6 branch, but I'm not surprised if the pre-release version is buggy, as it contains a new "rearrange the tabs via drag+drop" feature which is not fully baked yet. If you're using 1.6, tell me as much as you can about the issue (if you could send me the bmml files that show the bug it would be great, and probably fastest), and we'll fix it.

If you're too mad to answer, so be it, I totally understand.

If you'd like to give us another chance, I'd be delighted to try and gain your trust again.

Peldi

I wasn't sure how she'd take it, but at least I felt a little better. Lucky for me, she took it well:

From: Louanne Poisson
Date: Mon, Dec 28, 2009 at 2:39 PM
Subject: Re: Very, very disappointed in your product...
To: "Peldi Guilizzoni, Balsamiq Studios"

I apologize for being so rough. However, I have seen the quality aspect of software take a huge hit as time has passed. I've been an SQA Consultant for over 20 years and this trend has been a huge disappointment to me personally and professionally. SQA Engineers and our work has never been recognized as important (or as important as developer's work) and I guess I'm quite upset about how we have become so insignificant. It is not fair and I am not happy about it.

However, when I see a good company such as yours giving testing and quality short shrift, and I am on the receiving end of poor quality, it can and does infuriate me. SQA Engineers are important. No matter how wonderful the company or the software, if users run into walls of bugs--well, it just isn't fair to them. I'm sorry--it seems you have received the frustration of many years of disappointment on my part at the hands of developers, managers and executives at software firms, but I would not have had this opportunity if you had not let the quality slip.

I guess you could say 'don't take it personally,' I can recognize that I am having a severe reaction, however, I was terribly disappointed last night when I could not send my work to my boss. I'm attempting to move away from SQA and into user interface design and was so excited about Mockups.

As for the version I am using, it is the same version I downloaded when you sent me a fix last week for the closing and opening mockups. You should have that documented in one of the support emails. As the weekend went on, the quality of the pdf was going down (links were not working) and in the end, not one of the links was working. It is odd to see such an inconsistent problem, but there you have it.

Thank you for the refund. I would rather have the software though, but not as it is.

Louanne

Wow, that was quite the eye opener. Put yourself in her shoes for a minute: you're a software tester. People now think your job can be replaced with automated testing, so your job security is at risk. You decide to prove to your boss that you can also do some user interface design. You find Mockups and have some initial good results with it. Then, when it really matters, Mockups' bugs (i.e. quality issues that a QA engineer would have caught) prevent you from showing off your new skills to your boss.

Ouch! I'd be pissed too!

Since it turned out that she was using the pre-release version, she wasn't super-angry any more and I wanted to find the time to respond properly, I sent her this quick reply after two days:

From: Peldi Guilizzoni, Balsamiq Studios
Date: Wed, Dec 30, 2009 at 10:55 AM
Subject: Re: Very, very disappointed in your product...
To: Louanne Poisson

Hello Louanne, just a quick note to tell you that I'm not ignoring your email, just busy with Christmas cooking and catching up with email. I hope to reply tonight or tomorrow!
Peldi

To which she replied:

From: Louanne Poisson
Date: Wed, Dec 30, 2009 at 2:50 PM
Subject: Re: Very, very disappointed in your product...
To: "Peldi Guilizzoni, Balsamiq Studios"

Not to worry. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I really am a very kind person, I guess I just hit a fan of frustration. Please forgive me for being so rough on you. It is not your fault my profession has become what is has.

Take care and don't worry about replying. You have a great product and your software company sounds like the type I have wished for and dreamed about for many years. I will always speak highly of your company and product. I just don't think my idea of moving toward UI design from SQA is going to work.

Best regards,
Louanne

Yay. Success! πŸ™‚ Just in time for me to be able to enjoy new year's eve with my family.

What had happened stuck with me though, I kept thinking about it. When I got back to work, I had an idea:

From: Peldi Guilizzoni, Balsamiq Studios
Date: Mon, Jan 4, 2010 at 10:15 AM
Subject: Re: Very, very disappointed in your product...
To: Louanne Poisson

Hey Louanne, a quick thought: would you be available for a small contract (say, $300 worth of your time) to do a "speed-testing round" on Mockups? Basically we'd send you a build and you'd send us an email back with all the big bugs you find on it.

I started my career as a Quality Assurance engineer so I understand how valuable black-box testing done by a capable person can be.

What do you think? I'd need an invoice of course.
Peldi

Almost immediately, she replied:

From: Louanne Poisson
Date: Mon, Jan 4, 2010 at 1:54 PM
Subject: Re: Very, very disappointed in your product...
To: "Peldi Guilizzoni, Balsamiq Studios"

Hi Peldi,

You are so kind to make such an offer, especially since I was so ungracious in the way I presented my complaint. Let's start over! I would love to do a 'speed testing round' on Mockups.

Money is not my need at this time. I understand your flat-rate budget for this project is $300 and that is fine. I will not send you an invoice until we agree the project is successfully completed. I will log my hours and activities. Once we establish your requirements, they may be adjusted to meet your needs. I work in a context-driven mode. Your priorities are my priorities.

A few questions:
* Which would you like as a primary browser for test? Firefox? IE?
* Which timezone are you in?
* Are you familiar with Google chat? We could have a video chat if you would like.
* What is your preferred turn around time from when I receive a build?
* How often do you release to customers?
* Do you currently have a documented 'smoke test'? If not, do you have a prioritized list of features that might comprise a regression test?
* Would you be interested in an automated regression test (Selenium) if it requires minimal maintenance?
* Do you have any questions for me?
* Do you have any other requirements for a regression test?
* How do you feel about being pelted with questions?

I'm attaching a copy of my resume in case you haven't located it on the web yet. I am not taking for granted that you want to move forward. Please let me know if and how you would like to proceed. Take care, and thanks once again for your confidence and consideration.

Louanne

As they say, the rest is history... πŸ™‚ Louanne has been helping us with extra testing prowess whenever we needed it the most. It is largely because of her huge effort as a contractor that the Symbols release has gone so smoothly. Her work in helping customers on GetSatisfaction has enabled me to find some time to code, which fills me with joy.

Last week it came to a point where I couldn't imagine a Balsamiq without her, so I asked her if she wanted to join full-time. Lucky for all of us, she agreed.

Louanne is based in Boston, MA but might be moving to Michigan in late 2011. She also seems to be always awake and available, I can't quite understand how she does that... πŸ˜‰

Please join us in welcoming Louanne to the Balsamiq family. Her email is louanne@balsamiq.com and her new twitter account is @balsamiqLou.

Onward!
Peldi

P.S.In case you're wondering, we do use automated testing and love it. I think that automated and manual tests are equally essential - don't take my word for it, here's what Joel Spolsky has to say about it!


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Comments (10)

  1. What a great story! I love how what started with some brutal honesty about a common goal resulted in a win-win for both of you. Kudos to Peldi for having the grace and leadership to listen and truly solve his customer’s problem, and kudos to Louanne for speaking her mind and articulating and her unique view and relationship to the issue so perfectly.

    Fortune does favor the bold πŸ™‚

  2. I just found your site and went first to the personal list and found QA – I’ve stepped away from SQA myself to return to University recently for some degrees in Curriculum and Instruction and Development & Design of Distance Education Programs – Reading Luanne’s list of questions in the Mon, Jan 4, 2010 at 1:54 PM response was like hearing my own voice in my head.
    I’ll be purchasing your tool because it looks like what will work for me, and secondly because of your site, but I will be enjoying working with it because you hire folks like Luoanne.

    ejrunyon
  3. What happened to me ?! I’m stunned…

    Almost like something I always felt just appeared, obvious, crystal clear. Thanks for sharing this with us !

    Congrats to Louanne ! Long life to Balsamiq

  4. Pingback: Workiamo: Heads down in UX at Balsamiq | UX Blog

  5. Fantastic!! Well Peldi, you have certainly gotten your money’s worth today! Lou already impressed the heck out of me with her super speedy reply and her above and beyond solution for me. Way to impress! She’s a keeper. πŸ™‚

  6. Congratulations and what a ridiculously awesome way to join a company!

    Nicole Plescher
  7. I cannot express how cool this is…

    Kudos to Louanne.

    Kudos to Peldi for recognizing a growth opportunity and personal investment.

  8. Well, this is superlative news for all involved! Marvelous how this came about — truly organic. Thanks for sharing the thread and Louanne — hot da*n!

  9. Loved the email thread – thanks for sharing! Congrats Louanne!!

    Susan C
  10. This is… wow. Thanks for posting this and congrats Louanne for joigning Balsamiq.