Research & Plan
Whether you’re creating a brand new product or enhancing an existing platform, you and your team will need to take a deep dive into understanding customer needs and competitor analysis so that you can define your product roadmap.
It’s important to take the time here to collect and evaluate feedback from the (right!) users to ensure that you’re going to build a product that will meet customer needs and expectations while being marketable and viable.
Gathering feedback in the research and planning phase is instrumental to the whole product development lifecycle process, but don’t let this overwhelm you!
Asking for user feedback starts with three simple steps:
- Identify the goals of the feedback
- Decide on the best methods for collecting feedback
- Determine the participants who will provide feedback
After you have a better direction, product managers can use several methods to collect feedback such as conducting surveys and engaging in communities and forums:
Surveys allow you to gather valuable insights into how customers feel about your product, including their opinions on features, usability and satisfaction. This can help you identify areas for improvement and better tailor your product offerings to meet user needs.
Surveys are also a great way to track customer behavior over time. By asking users the same questions each month or quarter, you can gain an understanding of how their opinions and preferences are changing as you undergo each stage of the product development lifecycle.
Don’t forget to give your participants clear instructions on what you are looking to learn and provide the opportunity to be anonymous if needed.
Communities & Forums
People often ‘talk’ differently when they are talking to their peers rather than providing direct feedback, so when you review the conversations and content that people are having about your product on communities and forums you can get richer and often unexpected insight and understanding of user pain points, feature requirements and current trends in the how your product is perceived and used
For example, if users on a community forum are discussing how it’s difficult to find or use a specific feature within the product, you can use this information to craft a better user experience. Content and conversations on community forums can also help you to keep up to date with general user sentiment, industry trends, competitor activity and how you can make your product stand out to provide users with greater value and build competitive advantage and long term loyalty and customer value.
”Each design is a proposed business solution — a hypothesis. Your goal is to validate the proposed solution as efficiently as possible by using customer feedback.”Jeff GothelfProduct Management and Human-Centred Design consultant and author of Lean UX
Once the research is done, it’s time to start designing. This is where your team focuses on developing a user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) that are usable and intuitive for customers. As you can imagine, making product prototypes or mockups is a starting point to showcase possible features, designs, and functionalities that will meet customer needs later in the design. Over time, these designs will evolve.
The feedback you need during the design stage will come from activities like UAT, A/B Testing, Heat Mapping, Observation and insights from the Customer Success team. And you should be asking your users what they think they need through things like Panels, Forums, Ideas Portals and more.
Let’s break some of that down for you…
User Acceptance Testing (UAT)
UAT, or UAT Testing, is a process in which a small group of end-users test the application to ensure that it meets their requirements and expectations. UAT is an essential part of the product development cycle, allowing you to observe how real users interact with your product and identify areas to improve, optimize… or remove!
UAT is simply a process where multiple tests are done to:
- See how users navigate through the experience;
- Better understand user behavior and make informed decisions;
- Ensure that the final product actually does what it should and meets the end user’s requirements;
- Confirm that the product meets the specific work requirements;
- Identify any problems that might have been missed or overlooked by you or your team;
- Determine if the product is actually ready to be launched into the market;
- Highlights any potential issues that may arise following launch Identifies any additional work required to complete the project;
- Pinpoint areas that need improvement or optimization and make the necessary changes.
UAT is a complex and iterative process that requires discipline, unless you want to go live with errors! Whether your UAT users are external or within your organization, it’s best to automate as much of the workflow as possible because emails, spreadsheets, pen and paper won’t cut it.
With A/B Tests, you compare two different versions of the same product feature or page to see which performs better. You can measure the success of your tests with quantitative user feedback, such as session data and clicks, or you can conduct surveys or interviews with users to capture qualitative data.
This information highlights what works and what doesn’t, allowing you to make informed product decisions that will benefit your users. The key is to make sure you’re collecting enough data and analyzing it thoroughly to make sure your product is as user-friendly and effective as possible.
But A/B testing doesn’t stop there!
You can continue to monitor and evaluate product performance after a test and regularly review user feedback to see if product improvements are making a positive impact or if any new issues are arising.
Heat mapping can provide insights into user behavior, showing you how users are interacting with the interface and what areas of the page they are most interested in. It enables you to pinpoint areas that are confusing or difficult to use, so you can make tweaks and improvements accordingly.
In addition to heat mapping, you should consider other forms of observation to get an even more complete view of how people use your web application, giving you the best opportunity to create the best product possible.
For example, observe how experienced and novice users complete tasks and tasks or observe UAT sessions to get a more in-depth look at user behavior and how people interact with your product.
Interviews, panels & focus groups
When you directly engage your users, you can get a different firsthand perspective on their thoughts, opinions, needs and wants. You can also ask them to expand on their comments and establish a real-time two way dialogue. Interviews are a great way to have a one-on-one conversation with your customers and users, allowing you to get a better understanding of users’ experience with your product, and any issues they may have had.
Panels are a great option when it comes to getting feedback from multiple customers at the same time, providing a wider perspective and allowing you to compare opinions and experiences on a larger scale. You may also see how users defend or complain about features and functionality in a public setting.
Focus groups give you deeper insight into user experiences. By allowing you to ask questions, listen and provide your own feedback in a guided conversation with your users.
Here’s where your team actually builds the product, turning designs into code and implementing features to make sure it works correctly. This stage can take up a significant portion of the development lifecycle depending on how complex the product is.
Throughout development you need to be regularly collecting feedback from users to ensure that your product continues to be user-centered and that every feature adds value and meets a real need.
Here are some examples of user feedback that would be helpful during this stage:
- “I noticed that this feature doesn’t seem to be working properly, it’s giving me an error message.”
- “I like the overall design and ease of use, but I think this button could be more prominent.”
- “I think it would be really helpful if the product had the ability to do X.”
- “I found this feature confusing and had trouble figuring out how to use it.”
- “I think the product would be more efficient if this process was automated.”
Test & Validate
The dedicated testing and validation stage is a crucial part of the product development lifecycle. It helps you to ensure that your product works properly before being released ‘into the wild’.
As a product manager, the more you know about how users interact with the product and what they find difficult to use, the easier it will be to help your team focus efforts on making the product intuitive and user-friendly. Plus, this will give you the opportunity to catch any potential problems before “go live”.
This includes both functional testing (to make sure features are functioning correctly) and User Acceptance Testing (to make sure customers like the product).
Quite simply put, functional testing verifies whether the software functions as intended and meets the specified requirements. This is where product managers can validate that features and functionality perform as expected.
As mentioned previously, UAT helps identify any defects or issues that need to be addressed before the product or service is released to the public. UAT can be conducted in-person or remotely, and can involve tasks such as completing specific actions.
Bug Tracking & Fixing
Finding and fixing bugs is a major activity during the testing and validation stage. If you can identify and fix bugs early on, this will save you tremendous efforts when you launch your product.
Finally, after all of the hard work, it’s time to launch your product!
This is often accompanied by a marketing campaign to get people aware of the product and help increase adoption. You may well leverage positive user feedback in your marketing to highlight what people love about your product and to encourage others to sign-up!
Collecting user feedback during the launch stage can also help to build a community around your product. Early adopters who feel that their feedback is being heard and acted upon are more likely to become advocates for the product, spreading the word and helping to build buzz and excitement around it.
Early adopters can be instrumental in sharing their first impressions and reviews through a number of channels including social media mentions, forums, and blog posts. This may help you adjust your marketing strategies and messaging.
Customer support inquiries or help desk tickets are also an effective way to reveal friction points and areas requiring clearer user instructions.
Tip: Building up your customer base through early adopters can be particularly useful when you have future beta tests and need a sample audience to trial and test new features. Early adopters will ultimately be your secret to success and ensure your product is well-received and successful in the long term.
Once a product has been launched, the development process isn’t over. It’s important to continuously monitor and improve the product based on user feedback and usage data in order to ensure it stays competitive and continues to meet customer needs.
These stages form the typical foundation for any software development project and may be slightly different depending on the specific needs of your product. By integrating user feedback into each of these stages, you’ll be able to confidently make incremental decisions knowing that all your efforts are going towards adding value and meeting user needs!
Finding participants to provide you with feedback may be challenging to get the ball rolling, but what you find along the way can make all the difference in the end result.
When you involve users early on in the design process, you can ensure that their needs and preferences are taken into account, which can help improve user adoption and satisfaction.
Prioritizing user feedback can lead to more successful and user-centric products, above all else, you are solving for the user. Their feedback can help you catch issues before they become major problems, saving time and resources in the long run. Plus, identifying areas for improvement before your product hits the market will deliver better sales and profit after launch.
Power up your feedback loop with The Ultimate Guide to User Feedback for Product Managers
If you enjoyed this article, you might want to download The Ultimate Guide to User Feedback Management. From collection to closure, this comprehensive eBook highlights what you can be doing to streamline your user feedback processes and better understand what your users need in order to deliver the features they want, faster!
Userback is a market-leading user feedback platform helping 20,000+ software teams to understand what customers need so they can build better web applications, faster.
Userback streamlines and automates the realtime in-app collection, evaluation and management of visual feedback and contextual surveys. Userback can be used standalone or seamlessly integrated into existing business workflows to allow product managers and developers to validate ideas, optimize product-market fit, refine roadmaps, prioritize features, fix bugs and deliver value with greater insight, impact and efficiency.
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