Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Yeah yeah we know.

If you have an opportunity to get feedback never dismiss it.

Getting feedback from customers is never straight forward. The most important thing, I believe, is that you only get a fraction of the feedback you think you're getting.

When it comes to quantity of user feedback I generally operate on a rule which I discovered while writing Myster. The rule is, you won't get feedback unless your app doesn't run.

This is an exaggeration and simplifications, but it's there to underline a point. Customers don't exist to provide you with feedback so when they feel compelled to give you feedback it usually because they've found something that makes them yell. It can be because you app doesn't work at all, it could be that you've taken away something someone had based their work flow on, and it could be because your app is missing some capability that's vital for its continued existence in that firm.

Now, just because someone isn't yelling at you, doesn't mean that you're product isn't bad. Clients/users don't give feedback if the problem is not large enough to trigger a strong enough emotional reaction to bother complaining about. If your customers are used to dancing bearware then they aren't going to report things that aren't really, really broken. If you're customers are used to something really refined and you suddenly make a big mistake and disable or remove something they really liked then you'll get feedback. In one case your program really sucks so you'd expect to get lots of feedback on where it's broken.. In the other case your program fulfills their needs even with the change and you're still getting angry feedback. This happens because feedback is triggered based on the emotional reaction of events.

There exist some companies that use only customer feedback to guide their development efforts. These companies are usually fairly successful with this strategy however this represents a minimum level of competence. As someone who wants to present the best possible piece of software you need to be more proactive. Solicit feedback wherever possible. Find time to just sit and watch your client working on your software. There are really big gains possible for software that really fits the client needs. If you're software doesn't convert your user base into a heard of zealots there's still room for improvements. :-)

Before I leave this topic i want to point out something. The more "advanced" your users the more likely they are to feel confident to give you feedback. For example, if you're product is aimed at the technical community you can expect to get alot more feedback per user than if you're aiming at the consumer space. Also, users that try out your product early tend to be of the more adventurous type and will also tend to give you lots of feedback as well. Be aware that as your product matures your user base will naturally tend to shift to more casual users (and the user base will get used to your product's quirks) so feedback starts to dissipate later in that product's cycle.

ok see ya.

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