Tweeting up a Storm
Those who follow me on Twitter will have seen me posting a lot of exasperated tweets about the quality of Telerik's Controls for Silverlight suite earlier this week, when the company released the latest version of their control suite (their third and final release for 2009) with lots of hooplah on their blogs, main web site and various employee Twitter feeds.
In some ways it was probably unfair to pick on Telerik, when other vendors seem to be even worse (especially when it comes to support), and an interesting Twitter debate on not just Telerik, but the whole area of vendor controls, followed. The unanimous concensus was 'Just stay away from third party vendor controls', which is a really depressing thing to have to report.
This blog entry was originally an indecently long rant about my experiences with ASP.NET controls from Infragistics and Silverlight controls from Telerik, concluding that neither had been anywhere near fit for purpose.
When a few people tweeted that they were in agreement and saying 3rd party vendor controls should be avoided, two received a response from an Infragistics employee calling them 'whiners', and saying the company had tens of thousands of satisfied customers. I resisted the temptation to ask if the employee had spoken to each and every one of them to prove they were 'satisfied' and to provide their contact information so I could check with them myself ;-)
But 'whining' doesn't achieve anything, and the original version of this post, which summarised a pile of problems with just the handful of the Telerik controls for Silverlight I'd looked at, was too detailed to be of any value to anyone other than make me feel better by venting.
It's time to move on and do what so many other developers have recommended I do. Ignore 3rd party controls (or at least the ASP.NET and Silverlight ones) and just write my own. It will result in a lot less stress, wasted time and frustration and much happier clients, even if initially it looks like too much time and effort to undertake.
In the meantime to anyone thinking 3rd party controls are fit for purpose I'd say spend just an hour looking at the demo code and the documentation the different vendors supply by looking at an evaluation version. Ideally try just a few basic customisations - you might be surprised at what you find (or don't find!) Also look at the vendor forums to see (a) how many people are actually using that vendor's controls (b) how many problems people are having. If a vendor doesn't allow access to the forums that purchasers use then you've got a pretty strong clue as to what customers are saying about the quality of what they've bought!