The Lean Startup Methodology is already, by its very nature, lean. But I think that if it could reduced to one single, core tenet, it might be: “Iterate, iterate, iterate.” More specifically, iterate based on FEEDBACK.
Too many startups rush headlong into the development of their product without once passing it by real people in real environments. Their enthusiasm to get their product out into the market blinds them to the all-important role played by customer feedback.
Steve Blank and The Lean Startup machine underscore just how crucial it is get out of the building and ‘validate learning’ by engaging with real users to test your ideas and assumptions.
Here are four simple yet crucial rules to keep in mind when collating your developmental feedback.
1. You are not the user
I’ve talked about this before: you might have identified the problem your product is trying to address, but this does not mean a market for selling that potential product exists.
Strive to design a product informed by the collected responses of your market — not simply your own personal set of preferences.
And remember, simply having someone say they like the idea or product is not enough. Real validation is when someone else wants to give you their time, their money, or their social capital (click to watch the speech Validately CEO Steven Cohn gave on the topic).
2. You are there to listen
If you are talking 10% or more of the time you have withe the user, you have failed. There’s a UX researcher who’s only question during a field study is “Tell me about your day”. Then she let’s the person take it away from there and only asks clarifying questions later.
You need to give the user something open-ended to respond to narrow questions will provide limited information in response. When you restrict the list of possible answers to your own predetermined assumptions, you miss out on really learning. Your product will only stagnate when its faults are reinforced through biased feedback.
If you employ open-ended questions, you’ll get a better grip on what customers are actually thinking. By allowing space for customers to relay their personal experiences unimpeded by strict parameters, their descriptions will shed fresh light on what excites, delights, and frustrates them.
Open-ended questions can also follow more defined ones to gain additional information. For example, in an A/B test, ask WHY someone preferred site layout A over site layout B.
3. You are there to watch.
Don’t tell them to do a particular action, don’t hold their hand through the operation of some specific task, don’t blame them when they flounder through your UI.
Instead, ask them what they would do on the screen, how they feel about it, or why this particular button confused them. Ideally, you’ll gain an insight into what would happen if you weren’t sitting beside them.
Bottom line is that you know your product in an out, sit back and watch/listen to someone who’s seeing it for the first time. You’ll be surprised what you learn.
4. Gathering feedback is a constant process.
Continuous feedback and monitoring is key got your product to progress. Here are 6 options for sourcing on a rolling basis feedback on your product long after launch:
- Talk to your internal teams: Ask the sales team what’s winning deals and what’s losing and who you’re losing to. Talk to customer service about current complaints and known work-arounds. Some of the best new features come from existing customers who are invested in your product being better.
- Conduct Design Studios — Through this collaborative design exercise, design studios allow for internal sketching sessions to generate UX ideas and feedback from the whole team.
- User council — Create a group of dedicated users who give periodic feedback on new designs to guide trajectory. By providing the opportunity for customers to tell you what’s going on you deepen your relationship with them and always have your finger on the pulse of their needs.
- A/B testing — Given that most of us are frequently wrong, don’t release a single option, release two or three. Put out two similar or very different options, let data show you what’s good.
- Use feature flags — This requires software development, but it means you can turn on a new feature to only a small group of users to make sure it works before releasing it to everyone.
- Landing pages — Launch a few marketing microsites (such as Instapage or Quickmvp.com) to help your understand market potential for new ideas. They don’t need even to have your brand on them if you’re afraid of a backlash.
If you remember these four tenants as you start and continue to develop your product through its whole life cycle then you’ll always be one step ahead of the competition.
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