Let’s talk about product feedback. You can’t live without it and you should always seek more of it, but boy, is it tricky. It comes in with a lot of baggage and energy from all angles - users, sales, prospects, management - and it’s impossible to please everyone. And you shouldn’t try to. Reacting to feedback quickly and passionately can derail your vision and fracture your product’s value. Treated properly, however, feedback has the potential to set your product apart.
Before we get to a framework for maximizing feedback, I have a few cautionary tales to share.
The takeaway: slooooooow down and don’t overreact.
The Hoarder’s House
Jam-packed with each and every last detail or metric that might be useful.
- Tends to gets cluttered slowly and steadily
- Accounts for all edge cases
- Unnecessarily complex with features that don’t directly correspond to a user’s primary goals
Unfortunately, people who live in a hoarder’s houses rarely see it. It’s those on the outside, like prospects, who see the product and say, “It’s too complicated,” or “That looks hard to use.”
A mishmash of somewhat related features
- Suffers from “new shiny thing” syndrome
- A patchwork of half and fully-baked features
- Contains features pulled together without rhyme or reason
Also known as the “frankenportal” or “frankendashboard”, the frankenproduct typically has a mess of a navigation structure, clearly built without much thought to a cohesive user experience.
- Pleases them all, just make it configurable
- Tries to solve everyone’s problems, actually solves no ones
Heavy configurability is a dangerous slope and one that I typically advise to avoid. The more configurable a product is, the more complicated it is to sell, maintain, and figure out. It’s really cool to be a chameleon, not so cool for your product to be one.
No one intentionally creates products that fall into these categories. The fast pace of startups can cause you to overlook the overall impact of product changes. And nobody can blame you for wanting to please your customers! The next time you hear feedback, instead of immediately problem solving or designing a solution…
take a breath,
…and apply the U.S.E.R. feedback framework to determine how to best address product feedback.
U.S.E.R. Feedback Framework
Maximize feedback through a few simple steps. This framework will help you make sense of what you’re hearing to then determine what is worth acting on, what will move your product forward, and what should sit on a shelf (or in the trash can).
Understand what people are actually saying
- Under very rare circumstances should you turn around and build exactly what the people ask for. (Sorry, people!)
- Read between the lines and understand the real pain or goal.
- Is that pain something we are even interested in solving?
Scrub the feedback
- Does the feedback align with your vision and strategic goals? Seems simple, but people tend to conveniently forget these key guidelines when confronted with a passionate user, stakeholder, or salesperson. If it doesn’t align, “Just Say No!”
- Who is impacted? I like to think of the 80% use case. Are the majority of your users going to care or benefit, or would you be creating something to appease a small fraction of the user base?
- Is there a simple manual workaround? Not everything needs a “product” answer.
Extract a theme
- It’s so easy to think, “We can just squeeze in this little thing and fix the issue!” Do this a handful of times for a specific feature area, and you’ll be stuck with a series of band-aids that add up to a less than ideal user experience.
- Cluster feedback and extract common themes so you can approach a solution holistically. This requires you to sit on feedback that could be a “quick fix,” but I assure you it will be worth it. Ideally you’ll do some focused user research to dig at the root of the pains and goals, then design a well-rounded solution.
Rank against other initiatives
- Force yourself to stack rank feedback and associated changes against other priorities in your product backlog. (You have a prioritized product backlog, right?! If you don’t, we need to talk!)
- Stack ranking forces you to make prioritization decisions—there are no ties. You’ll have to decide if X is more important than Y. It’s ruthless, but this process weeds out the non-critical. If the feature or enhancement bubbles to the top of the list, great! Get it out into the world.
- If it doesn’t bubble to the top of the list, it’s either not that important or not the right time. I guarantee that if it sits in your backlog longer than 60 days, you will be on to some new priority and you’ll be glad you didn’t spend the time on that lil ol’ thing.
Effectively reacting to feedback is hard. Think of this U.S.E.R. feedback framework as your shield from clutter (i.e. bad decisions, band-aid solutions, and random features), and a tool to expose the most impactful, valuable items to take action on. Your product will be better for it, and you won’t ever have to clean up that hoarder’s house!