Developers: Talk To Your Users

Products are for people.

Yesterday I had a conversation with one of our customers about our product. I’m a developer- it’s a small company, so the prefix of “lead” means little. But I’m not the product owner. And yet, I think talking to people who use the code I write is important.

When you are a developer, you get a very specific view of the product you’re developing. You look up from its foundations, appreciate its architecture and implicitly understand why everything works the way it does. You bring with you a world view of infrastructure and algorithms. You know that a string is not an integer.

But your users do not. And ultimately what your users think is right. As a developer it is your job to understand that a boolean is either true or false. A user uses your product to achieve something, and they do it in the way they understand that something. And if they think that things can be true, false or maybe. Well- then it’s time for you to start thinking in ternary.

And if you never talk to your customers- how will you ever understand them. The view from the the support tickets and the Kanban board is one much distorted from across the coffee table. Let alone the knowledge you’ll gain from watching someone use your product. Even if that knowledge is twinged with the pain of someone using five clicks when you know one will do.

Even if you’re building a product for other developers- don’t consider yourself off the hook. It’s possible I’ll never forgive the AWS product team for “Serverless Aurora”. A product which released in an all but unusable form for the serverless customer…

The lesson: Always remember who you’re developing for- and then get to know them.