Listening to your users is the first step to success

Here at Kiandra we deal with a variety of different software projects. Portals, websites, applications, resource management systems, the list goes on. All of these projects have one key component that is critical to the success of each of these projects, the user.

In the past, and even still today, businesses will all too often go to market with a shiny new system they’ve built, waiting for praise and outstanding reviews to come raining down. When in reality, what they’ve produced is nothing more than the flawed old system with a fresh coat of paint, or a new system designed with a small portion of the management team that haven’t been hands on since before their last promotion.
 
When it comes to enhancing an existing solution, or conceptualising a new system to bring a manual process into the twenty first century – who better to speak to than the actual people who will be using it.
You might be thinking, why? The answer is as clear as day. Users are the ones using the current system day in and day out. They know what works, takes too much time, the workarounds for current problems and much more. There is plenty of insight to be gained from these valuable people.
 
Now I’m not saying hand over the pen and paper to users and let them go nuts designing the whole system. Why? Well, a great example of how that pans out is evident in this episode of the Simpsons when Homer finds his long lost brother who happens to be a car manufacturer. He gives Homer permission to design a car for the average American to try and boost their sales. The end result – a ridiculous car that nobody would buy, it’s essentially “a car built for Homer”.

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Now it’s not Homers fault, Homer isn’t a car designer and doesn’t know the first thing about designing a car. He knows what he wants, and it’s the car designers’ job to interpret those needs and translate them into practical design decisions.

The same approach applies when talking to everyday users about the system you’re looking to build. They know what they want, what currently frustrates them and where improvements can be made. Speaking to these users and taking on board their recommendations will put the project on the road to success.

Of course, this is only a single slice of the puzzle, but a very important one. 

Because of the invaluable feedback users can provide a business, more and more businesses today are starting to realise, that if they want their project to be successful, they need to enlist their users early on to gather input. The users are the ones that will be using the system on a regular basis and should be driving decisions around how it works. 

Some businesses are taking things a step further and releasing products very early in the development cycle in an alpha or beta stage. Adobe’s new web design application for example, XD, was released very early on with a very limited set of features available. 

In a relatively new trend, some businesses are releasing what we call an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and then iterating and enhancing it further from there with support from the users. 

Coming back to Adobe XD, their feature roadmap is heavily influenced by their end users. There is an online forum where users can submit requests for functionality and other users can vote on these requests. The development team then take the most voted on features and roll them out into the product. This is revolutionary, as an entire industry of designers are effectively designing their ideal application.

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This is not only guaranteeing Adobe market share by pulling users away from other applications, but also setting them up for success.
 
Understandably Adobe have a lot of money behind them allowing them to do this, meaning this approach might not be feasible in every circumstance for the average business, but it just goes to show the power of user input into the design process.
 
Your business may not be able to afford Adobe’s grand scale approach, but there are similar approaches that won’t cost you very much at all.
 
User testing anything you’re about to release is a great way to make sure you’ve interpreted those user needs and requirements correctly and what you’ve built, will be successful in the long run. Even just spending a few days with a small group of five users testing out your new system prior to launching can pay dividends in the long run.
 
User testing allows you to catch problems early, and rectify them before launching to the entire user base. Launching a faulty, or unusable product, can be detrimental to its success, because as we know – first impressions are everything.
 
Now none of these techniques are overly costly or time consuming. Talking to your users during the early stages of design, keeping them in the loop during development and then  testing the solution with them before launch can take up as little as one week. Factor that into a three, six or even 12 month project and that small investment will put you well on the road to success with “a car built for your users”.

Get in touch for a free Discovery Workshop so you can get across your next project.