If you have a puddle of water on the floor of your home, it could be from a spill, from a faucet being left on, or even worse than that, from a plumbing issue. You might begin with the spill theory, but as the puddle gets bigger, you’ll realize the problem is more serious.
The same idea goes for diagnosing a problem with your digital product.
You might begin by thinking an issue is simply a small, tactical UI fix. However, as those fixes still don’t foster success with your product, you’ll realize the fix might be less trivial and more paramount.
This is when user feedback serves as a tool for identifying the source of the “leak” in a digital product.
In my experience with products and utilizing user feedback to improve them, I have constructed these three steps to determine and correct what is getting in the way between your digital product, and its prosperity.
Step 1- Get Feedback on Your Product’s Usability
If your product isn’t selling or performing as it should, the first possible diagnosis could be an issue with the product’s usability. These more cosmetic issues can be identified through usability testing, in which the little UI problems are addressed and can be (compared to other more fundamental problems) easily fixed. These repairs are very tactical and implemented to enhance user experience.
The problems here often stem from issues such as a button not being as accessible as it should be, or something being too complex or confusing. If the product solves a need, and fits to your user’s mental model, then these will just be trivial roadblocks on the path to a perfect product. This testing should be ongoing, and a feedback section could even be integrated into the product experience.
Cosmetic issues can be identified through usability testing, in which the little UI problems are addressed and can be easily fixed.
Questions to Ask Users
- What do you wish was in the product, that isn’t already?
- What are parts of the product you find challenging, or frustrating to use?
- What parts of the product are unnecessary or overcomplicated?
Step 2- Get Feedback on Your User’s Mental Model
Unfortunately, product teams usually aren’t lucky enough for the problem to be as frivolous as a misplaced button. You’ve fixed some minor, concrete problems with your product, but the true root of the issue hasn’t been diagnosed. Perhaps in usability testing, you uncover that your users feel like the product isn’t made for them, like they aren’t getting the most out of it, or like they aren’t using it properly.
When this occurs, it is because your product isn’t aligned with the user’s mental model.
For this step of acquiring feedback, I like to think of the example of Uber. Their target audience is people who have had one too many after-work beers, and need to get home. They don’t need a catalog of all their possible drivers, with profiles on each of them, listing their music taste and interests, they just need a ride.
Is your product offering the “drive thru” solution or the“restaurant” in your readers’ eyes?
In this example, the user’s mental model is targeted to finding a quick solution, rather than a more ideal, time-consuming one. In their mind, they need a drive thru, not a restaurant. So ask yourself if your product is offering the“drive thru” solution or the“restaurant” in your readers’ eyes.
Questions to Ask Potential Users
- How much time are you willing to spend to get the results you want?
- How would you describe your ideal way of attaining your result?
- What would you change about the product to best support the way you accomplish your goal?
Step 3- Get Feedback On Your Product Idea
If you have sought out feedback on user experience and user mental models, implemented those changes, and your product still isn’t resonating, then it is time to face the facts: the product isn’t solving a problem in your users’ lives.
In order for a product to prosper, it must solve the problem that exists in the users’ lives. If they don’t in fact have that problem, they don’t need your solution. It will either save time, money, or will improve the quality of daily tasks.
In order for a product to prosper, it must solve the problem that exists in the users’ lives.
In this step, you will glean feedback to pinpoint the true pain that your users are struggling with, and then may have to redesign your product in order to mitigate that pain. Asking questions about what is most inconveniencing the user, will allow you to diagnose the elementary reason for the delay in your product’s success.
You will then develop a product the users want, or even need in their lives, not a product they have to try to make fit.
Questions to Ask Potential Users
- What pains are you facing in your day-to-day life?
- What do you need to help to alleviate that pain?
- What do you want to improve about this problem in your life?
When your product isn’t flourishing in the market like you expected, diagnosing the problem can be both difficult and daunting.
Whether the feedback inspires product adjustments that are either tactical or intrinsic, the only way to understand why a product isn’t succeeding, is to understand the audience it caters to.
This feedback will not only enable meaningful changes, it will also validate the digital product as a whole. So once all that hard work comes to fruition, the result will be a product that the users themselves helped create.