Collaborate With Users On Product Development

The Hack – Involve Users in Product Development

AARRR stage – Retention

Growth Problem – How to Involve Users in Improving Your App

The Internet, and social media in particular, have made it possible for companies to establish new, much closer contacts with their customers and experts within their product areas. Whereas 20 years ago, dialogue with customers took place primarily through focus groups and market research, today we have the opportunity to maintain an ongoing conversation with our customers and the people who use our products daily and show an interest in them. There are hundreds of free platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter that enable us to immediately get our users involved. The challenge isn’t the technology, but rather the sociological, human and business-related aspects of how we create user involvement and employ it to the benefit of the company.

When we talk about user involvement, it’s important to differentiate between two objectives: the development of the company’s products and the marketing of the company’s products. The two are very closely related and rarely separated in real life. However, it’s important to understand that they are two distinct objectives.

5 things to think about before getting started

With all the advantages of user involvement, perhaps it’s not so strange that many companies have enthusiastically embarked on this new product development strategy. However, the results have been somewhat mixed. Many companies never experience the advantages of involving users in the product development process and others even experience some seriously negative consequences. Let’s look at some of the challenges of working with user involvement – and the requirements your products ought to live up to:

1. Do your product developers correspond to your target group?
A couple of years ago, a Danish ice cream company tried to use their Facebook followers to develop a new ice cream. However, the only problem was that their Facebook followers were by no means representative of the Danish population. So when the new ice cream came onto the market, it may have been perfect for the company’s 20,000 Facebook followers, but it was of absolutely no interest to the general population. When working with user involvement, it’s important to remember that the final product isn’t necessarily representative of all your customers’ preferences – or even of the majority of your target group. That’s why user involvement isn’t always the right strategy for customers aiming at a mass market. Instead, it’s more appropriate for companies targeting many niche markets at the same time.

2. Is your product too boring?
A classic problem is that customers simply aren’t interested in being part of product development. Many products are quite boring, which can make it difficult for companies to get their customers involved in the product development process. In other words, a product needs to be relatively “sexy” for it to make sense to work with user involvement.

3. Do you plan on listening?
Many companies want to involve users, but when it comes down to it, they can’t find a way to implement the users’ input in practice. This is often directly related to how the company is organised and their professional pride. The company’s in-house product developers lack the motivation to listen to input from the outside. Many suffer from a “Not-Invented-Here complex”, viewing everything that comes from the outside as inferior and irrelevant to the company.

4. Could it be too costly and time consuming?
If you don’t keep tight reins on the user involvement process, you could end up with a flood of product ideas from customers, where 99.9% are of no interest whatsoever. Finding the needle in the haystack can be extremely time consuming and costly – but it can also turn out to be well worth the investment.

5. Are your customers visionary?
Henry Ford is quoted as saying that if he had asked his customers what they wanted, they would have asked for a faster horse. Generally, people are not particularly innovative, because they tend to think only about their own immediate needs and are rarely able to visualise megatrends. Companies like Apple don’t work with user involvement because they design products that the users don’t realise they need yet.

In short, user involvement is not a guaranteed recipe for success. It requires careful consideration and understanding of the company’s unique situation, markets and customers.

Haxplanation:

When was the last time you got your users involved in shaping your product? No, really involved? We’re not talking about quickly throwing something on UserTesting.com before pushing your new feature to production.

We’re talking about actually building something from the ground up in close collaboration with your current or future customers. You know, the REAL lean startup way of building a product . If you’re being honest with yourself then you realise there may have been some shortcuts taken on the road to attaining true ‘leanness.’

If, after doing a fair amount of soul-searching, you can still say hand-on-heart that you’ve actually followed the lean approach to a T. Then we salute you!

For the rest of us growth h4x0rz, read on to find out how to create better products by getting your users involved from the outset.

Just Hack It:

  • Before you start entertaining the idea of creating an app – any app – you need to find out that there’s actual demand for it. How? By getting your users involved in its development.
  • Even if you’re just looking at implementing a new feature. Ensure your users are involved! This is best achieved by iterating on bare-bones prototypes while getting constant feedback and input from your users.
  • ProductHunt have used Invision for prototyping their iOS app. However, there are a huge number of prototyping tools available. Pick the one that works best for your situation.
  • For creating new features, you can get users involved by running in-app surveys using tools such as Apptentive and others
  • Also, don’t forget about good old email replies and encourage these in your communications with a user
  • There’s no better way to retain a user than to have them co-create a product with you or make them aware that their voice is heard
  • Don’t ‘masturcreate’ a product in isolation. Find willing partners and start doing some serious app baby-making together!

BONUS: How to improve your product with customer feedback

Credits: Mark Hayes

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