Make Your Users Fall in Love
August 5, 2010 § 2 Comments
Just kidding, you can’t make them do anything – but you can create a product they love and obsess over. When this happens, your users have effectively fallen in love with your product (now, if only relationships were so simple).
While it goes without saying, the first step in getting users to fall in love with your product, is to create something that solves a need for them (whether this is B2B or B2C, the same advice holds for both). Users won’t use a product that adds to the mountain of products they are already using, nor will they use something that further complicates their life. Unless your product adds value to them, they’re not going to use it – sorry. Technology is meant to simplify our lives (though it doesn’t always seem that way). If there’s an existing solution for a need you want to solve, find a way to solve it better (create a cheaper product, better product, etc). If there is no solution, then figure out a way to create one your users will want to use.
There’s no magic solution to figuring this out. I’m a disciple of the Lean Startup philosophy. That is, I take a very user-centric approach. You won’t know what users want if you’re just going to sit in front of your computer. Get up, and get away from your computer screen – go outside and talk to users (literally, and figuratively). There are a couple of ways to do this:
Conduct User Tests
Also known as usability testing, this is an incredibly useful way of figuring out if your product is intuitive. Remember how I said users don’t want to use products that will further complicate their lives? Well, they also don’t want to use products that aren’t intuitive. People barely have time for their significant other, let alone have time to figure out how to use your product. The flow of your product should be completely intuitive – don’t create some crazy interface to be “different.” Your users aren’t going to care how “different” the interface and user experience is if they don’t even know where to begin. To figure out if your product is intuitive, have real people play around with it – make sure your “actionable” item is easy to access. If the purpose of your product is for users to submit questions to their social graph, then the flow between launching the app, to submitting a question should be simple and easy to find – question submission is your “actionable” item.
Watch users actually use your product and have them give feedback. Usertesting.com is a useful resource, or you can invite users to your office (real, or coffee shop, either one works), and have them go through the flow of your product. Paper prototyping is useful if you’re in the early stages of development and are looking to create an intuitive interface and/or user experience but also make changes. Paper prototyping essentially requires paper mockups of your product (you can either freehand it, or, and this is much more efficient, use a product where you can create mockups quickly – like Balsamiq, which is fabulous and completely INTUITIVE to use).
Conduct User Research Studies
User Research Studies are done to figure out where your market is. Startups often have the problem of having a product that they target to everyone. To gain user retention, it’s important to have die-hard passionate users. These are your earlyvangelists. Forget your average, mainstream, late-adopting user – at least, in the beginning. Don’t even think about tailoring your product towards them, because they’re risk averse and are unlikely to use a product they haven’t heard about (people that scream and cry about Facebook privacy fall in this category as well – btdubs, privacy is dead, quit crying about Facebook intruding on it *glaring at Congress*). Create your product for your most passionate user-base. If your product is an app that finds the best dessert dishes in your local area – go find dessert fiends and foodies and talk to them about their experience in finding the best desserts, see what they use, and figure out of they’re your target demographic. If they’re not, then create a hypothesis and prove/disprove that hypothesis. Let’s say, hypothetically, I’ve proved, after having talked to dessert fiends and foodies that they are not my ideal demographic for such an app (it could happen?). I’m not going to waste my time trying to convince them that my app is for them, nor am I going to try to tailor my app towards them if finding the best desserts is at the core of my product. I’ll create a new hypothesis – for example, my app is something children between the ages of once-they-learn-to-speak to 10 years old are likely to love (“Mommy, I cleaned my room, can we get a scoop of salted caramel from Bi-Rite?”). Next, I’ll go out and find children that fall under this demographic and their parents and talk to them to prove or disprove my theory.
Don’t Be “Whipped” By Your Users
There’s also the problem of listening to users too much. Don’t fall into this trap. Often times, users will say one thing, but will do another. They may say they want a feature that lets them share every page on your site, but won’t ever user it. Don’t blindly listen to everything your users say. Listen to their problems, then create a solution accordingly. A good way to avoid being “whipped” by your users is through the use of metrics. Use a third-party analytics tool, or create a quick one in-house that keeps track of all metrics worth keeping track of. If users say they want X feature, but your team isn’t convinced developing it is the best use of time, create a simplified version of it (bugs are okay, your product is more important than having a couple of inconsequential bugs – best example of this: first generation iPhone was simple and filled with bugs…there wasn’t even copy/paste! But its users loved the product). Are your users actually using that feature? No? Get rid of it. Yes? Conduct user studies to see how you could improve on it so as to maximize its full potential. If there’s a feature you’ve had since day 1, but you don’t have a significant number of people using it, I don’t care how attached you are to it, it needs to go. It’ll add to the clutter, and clutter contributes to a messy user experience and/or interface.
Team A and Team B
Actually called Split Testing, or A/B Testing. I just like using cutesy names. I think it makes my blog cute. Kidding, seriously. But Split A/B Testing is incredibly powerful. Scientists use it all the time, at least, a variation of it. When they run experiments, they’ll have a control group, and a variable group. Likewise, doing A/B tests can impact the end design and user experience of a product. If you’ve decided to implement a feature, but aren’t sure it’s something users care for or which variation of the feature to implement, split your users into two groups. Show one variation to one group, and another to the second group. Keep track of the metrics. Which one are users actually using or using more? Or don’t even show the feature to one group. Do they care that they don’t have it? Let your data guide you.
I would write more, but I have a tendency to write too much. There isn’t a magic formula. You may do all of these things, but still have a product users don’t love. There are a number of factors that go into getting your users to fall in love with you – it just so happens that for many companies and product teams, there just happens to be a correlation between doing all of this and gaining users. More importantly, they’re better equipped at not just gaining users, but achieving user retention. User retention just so happens to be the biggest indicator that will tell you that your users have fallen in love – with you, or rather, your product (or you, if you’re Steve Jobs).
Most importantly, create a product with your users in mind. Second most important: follow the data. Following metrics is key – it tells you if users walk the talk. Basically, to use a real-life analogy: If a guy were to tell me a bunch of sweet
crap nothings, but doesn’t show it, it means absolutely nothing to me other than, they like telling me what they think I want to hear. If there are two important lessons to learn early, they’re as follows:
- Always keep your users in mind when defining a product (profits will come with users. No users = no profits)
- Actions speak louder than words (i.e., pay attention to your user data and see if what they’re saying matches up with what they’re doing).