Learning From Your Users: 5 Key Lessons

Whether you are building a web application, a mobile application, or a simple website to interact with users and customers, the approach is almost always the same: your users will define and shape what you are building.

You might implement the most daring and breathtaking layout for your website, but if it was not designed for or shaped by your users, then you will end up with very little interaction, and your project might fail altogether.

The question isn’t whether you should involve your users, that’s a given. The $64000 question is how much you should involve users in the design and implementation phase, the depth of your user’s influence in the process.

Be Simple. Meet their needs.

a typewriter

When you first designed your app, it was meant to meet a certain, specific need. Don’t lose sight of that. Simplicity is always a great place to start. That’s because it addresses why you began building your app or website. In my experience as a product manager, some of our best features are always the simplest. Our top JotForm Widget is a simple checklist — that’s right — a checklist! There are obviously more factors why your users will pick one feature over another, but simplicity plays a significant role in tipping the scale. A recent study by UserTesting demonstrated that your user experience should get them to the core value of your product sooner than later. I agree.

Tangential Features: Meet their Wants.

When you finally publish your application or website by making it available to all your users, you will probably get feature or improvement requests. From your perspective, they will have little to do with the core features. Don’t be quick to dismiss them.

a man on the top of the hill

Remember that users often see things differently. An important or essential aspect of your website or application may mean absolutely nothing to them, while something vestigial may be a deal breaker for them.

While responding to forum requests and emails from some of our users, I have learnt a simple fact: many of the features that we might consider unimportant are absolutely essential for users. Incredibly, one tangential feature might even be ubiquitous, and a game changer in how your users respond to your creation.

Bugs: Resolving Issues

Some of your users may point out a very technical bug or problem with your website or application, while others may point out something that needs a little tweaking. The most important attitude here is achieving a perspective from your user’s point of view. Here are a few tips I have found useful:

  1. Always respond, either in acknowledgement or in attempting to troubleshoot an isolated issue (one that may affect only one user)
  2. Don’t make promises. Be sincere and to the point.
  3. Empathize with how the issue is affecting their experience. Use that to gauge the urgency and importance towards a resolution.

Try to resolve issues sooner than later, but never rush an update. And test it in such a way that it does not cause additional problems for your users.

Use Conversations

Take time to talk to some of your most active users. Talk to those who don’t use your app as often. The important thing is to give them a voice, they need to be heard.

Read between the lines, listen to the emotions they engage when describing a feature or an aspect of your website; ask them to walk you through how they use your app.

It all sounds incredibly tedious, but its essential to building and increasing interaction, something we all want for our creations — we want to make a positive difference in our users lives.

You don’t have to Implement Everything

One possible reaction to this article is the idea that everything website or application users say should be implemented. That might not be a great idea.

Always remember your website or application is designed to target users; meeting the needs and wants of many — not all. The problem is that not all users are the same, and you might have some user perspectives which might shift the app or website focus away from the larger interest group.

The simple answer is that you might have to disappoint some users, but it should be done in the light of how it will affect the product as a whole.

a man working on the board

As your users’ needs change, so will your app. The change is always gradual, and hardly dramatic, which is why each feature requested is considered important, but not always imperative.

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