Jan Kubr

Users won’t tell you what to do

In Uncategorized on May 4, 2008 at 21:19

When I released the first version of Flempo, I had this naive idea about user feedback. You just release something (anything) and people will tell you what to do next, right? No. Here’s a few observations I made (not only based on my experience with Flempo):

  • If people find something annoying, hard to use, or confusing – in other words something is not clear enough for them – they won’t run to tell you. They just go away or work around the problem. Even if they’ve invested a lot of time or money in the product, the fact that they have a problem with it might not get to you at all. They don’t care about you. They care about themselves.
  • Feedback buttons don’t do much. If you go talk to people (or run a survey, perhaps), they’ll tell you what they think about your product, what they do or don’t like. They don’t bother submitting any feedback though, unless they can significantly benefit from it.
    If you have thousands of users, maybe ten percent of them might give you some feedback. But are the loud ones a good enough sample to represent the whole user base? I doubt it.
  • The main thing you’ll hear from users are feature requests. People will have a lot of ideas about what to add to your product. Your job is to find the right reason they want that particular feature (Paul Buchheit has some interesting thoughts on that ) and think how you can help them do that without adding anything to your product. Right?
  • The only real feedback people give you is in using your site. That is the feedback you should use to improve it. Watch what people do and try to understand their needs and problems. Measure. Improve. Repeat.

To summarize, don’t expect your users to tell you what you should do. They might give you pretty good hints, but it will always be up to you to figure out where to take your product. But otherwise it would be far too easy, wouldn’t it?

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