"Very few of us can create the perfect idea without feedback. If you’ve got a great idea and you present it to someone, and they immediately like it with no reservations, it’s not a good idea." - Tom Blondi (Chief Revenue Officer, SocialWhirled)
Your first users are the most important ones. However, failing to make a positive first impression with your initial customers can seriously hinder the success of your product, and many startups don't always get a second chance to release a better version of their offering.
Luckily, we here at the Founder Institute have collected insights from top startup experts into a comprehensive guide to help you get valuable user feedback before you launch your product to ensure that the product you release is the strongest it can be.
For more information on customer and product development, check out our blog post, "How to Have Your Customer Build Your Product for You".
Devise Your Game Plan
Before you begin collecting user feedback on your potential product, there are several things you must keep in mind. In the Bitcatcha blog post “UX Design Part 2: How To Define Your Users, Find them & Solve Their Problems”, Daren Low recommends clearly defining who your target customers are and what they want in five steps.
1. Finalize Your Company’s Value Proposition
Your company must have a clearly defined value proposition, as this is what will attract, or turn away, the customers who need your product. Remember, if you can describe what your product is and why it’s valuable in five seconds or less, you’re on the right track.
2. Define Your Customers’ Biggest Need
Before you test your product among test users, ensure that your product actually solves a problem or fills a gap in your respective market, as this will be the metric you use to measure the performance of your company’s offering.
3. Create Your Ideal Customer’s User Profile
Avoid generalizations when defining your ideal consumer. Try to see your perfect customer as a real human being rather than a graph, table, or percentage.
4. List Your Ideal Customers’ Demographics
Tabulate the demographics of your customer base. Include the age, gender, location, occupation, income, and any more relevant details that pertain to your ideal customer.
5. Pinpoint Your Ideal Customers’ Motivations, Aspirations, and Goals
Your product will have a more lasting impact on your customers if it’s designed not only for who they are, but who they want to be. In addition to the above characteristics of your ideal user, make a list of their motivations, their reasons for coming investing in your product, what they are passionate about, etc.
Now that you have a clear understanding of who your product is for and what their needs are, there are just a couple of more things you must do before you start collecting feedback. In Yu Sheng’s ICX blog post, “5 Tips to Get the Most Out of User Feedback”, it’s recommended that founders determine what kind of feedback they want and begin the process by accepting that users are always right.
Believe it or not, there are different kinds of feedback to get on a product. Here are a few different types of feedback you may want, depending on what your product is:
If you want general feedback on your product, then it is acceptable to merely seek general improvements.
If you want validation on your product idea, then you should determine if your product satisfies a need or solves a problem for your target market.
If you are concerned with the usability of your product, then you should focus your feedback acquisition on aspects like ease of use, understandability, intuitiveness of flows/actions, etc.
While not every piece of feedback you get on your product will be relevant to you, it is essential to assume that your customers are right, as founders often have the tendency to be defensive about their company’s offering. For example, if one of your users has trouble understanding how your product functions, it’s easy assume that that person is an idiot. However, keeping an open mind when collecting feedback will enable you to catch a product flaw that other users may be experiencing, as well. Identifying your product’s glitches before launching your product may very well increase your chances of success.
Collect User Feedback
There are a variety of tactics that you can use to collect user feedback, each of which will produce different results, so be sure to experiment and discover the ones that work best for you. Marketing Analyst Lars Lofgren outlines several of the most popular and effective methods for getting quality feedback from users in the KISSmetrics blog post “The 5 Best Ways to Get Feedback from Your Customers”.
Countless companies employ surveys to get feedback because of their simplicity and versatility. Here are a few tips to get the most out of your surveys:
- Keep surveys short - 5-10 questions is an acceptable length for surveys.
- Only employ questions that you’ll actually use. Every question should serve a purpose, so if you ask an unimportant question, you’re wasting your time and the user’s time.
- Use open-ended questions to obtain more accurate information from your users. Using rating scales and multiple choice questions will restrict the types of answers you will receive and limit the quality of the data.
If you decide to utilize surveys to collect user feedback, here is a list of survey service options that worth looking into, many of which are inexpensive or free for those of you with limited budgets.
The Direct Approach
One of the most effective ways of getting useful feedback is to reach out directly to your early users. Talk to them through email, on the phone, or, even better, find which ones are local and offer to take them out to lunch or coffee to discuss your product. While time commitments may make this method tricky, it can also save you the most time in the long run, as an hour of getting raw, direct, honest feedback is more valuable than a hundred customer surveys.
If you plan to reach out to your customers through email, check out Justin Wilcox's blog post, "Getting Customer Interviews with Cold Emails".
Whether you communicate with your test users through email, by phone, or in person, asking the right questions will greatly increase your chances of acquiring useful feedback. Product Researcher Emma Meehan listed out a multitude of questions to ask your test users in the Intercom blog post, "The Right Questions Get Actionable Answers". Here are some of the most effective below:
- “What works well about X?”
- “What’s confusing, if anything, about it?”
- “What could we improve?”
- “What has your impression of [feature X] been so far?”
- “Explain what you think the product does.”
- “What do you think the difference is between [feature X] and [feature Y]?”
A useful tool for interviewing customers is the "Customer Interview Script Generator", developed by Justin Wilcox to provide you with a custom script for any kind of customer interview.
Conducting usability tests is a powerful means of getting feedback on your offering, as this will alert you to what features your user is drawn to, what catches their attention, where they get confused, and more. If you have an app, software, or website you want feedback on, there are numerous services that will document the user’s process. Here are a few services that can help you manage and conduct usability tests, many of them free:
However, if you lack the funds to invest in a service, there is another option to get quality user feedback. Find member of your target demographic (e.g. parents, young adults, elderly people, millenials, etc.) and schedule a time to meet with them. Give them a sample of your product and give them a simple task to complete with no guidance and just watch them figure it out. If they have trouble completing the task, take note as this may be a problem that others from your demographic may experience as well. Also, do not do this with friends with family as they may give you biased feedback, when what you need is complete honesty, ideally from a complete stranger.
What to Do with Your Feedback
Once you’ve collected a sizeable amount of user feedback, you must analyze it for important insights and determine the best course of action for your product. Here are some more insights from Yu Sheng’s “5 Tips to Get the Most Out of User Feedback”.
Determine Your Users’ Pain Points
If your users had trouble understanding how your product works or experienced confusion navigating its features, take the time to explore the pain points of your users. Whichever method you employ to gather feedback, be sure to address the following points:
If you gave your user a set of instructions, were the instructions hard to understand?
Did the product meet the user’s expectations?
What was the user expecting when they were first given the product?
The easiest way to get answers to these questions is to just ask. However, if you do not have the users readily available to interview, include these questions in your surveys or any other method of collecting feedback.
Scrutinize Your Feedback
Some types of feedback are more valuable than others. For example, if the feedback on your product is generally positive, this may be a good indicator that your product is on the road to launch. However, if the few negative reviews you get come from users who are closer to your target demographic, this feedback is more important than the multitude of positive reviews you’ve received from general reviewers.
Bottom line, carefully analyze not only the feedback you’ve collected, but also the source of the feedback, as this will reveal more important insights than you think.
Test the Improved Version
After closely analyzing the feedback you’ve collected so far, it’s time to implement changes to your product based on what your early users suggested and test the improved version for further feedback. You may need repeat this process several times, as users often don’t know what they want from your product or may have trouble articulating what they want.
While this may end up being a long and repetitive endeavor, keep in mind that constantly updating and improving your product before you officially launch will prevent you from releasing a lackluster offering that fails to attract users.
As you endeavor to build the perfect product, keep in mind that receiving feedback and improving your product is a constant process and should be an important part of your company’s model. And remember, sometimes even the harshest criticism can be the most valuable advice.
I think it's very important to have a feedback loop, where you're constantly thinking about what you've done and how you could be doing it better. I think that's the single best piece of advice: constantly think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself." - Elon Musk