In one of his seminal pieces, do things that don’t scale, Paul Graham urges founders to actively look for exchanges with their earliest adopters. Precisely, he writes:
The feedback you get from engaging directly with your earliest users will be the best you ever get. When you’re so big you have to resort to focus groups, you’ll wish you could go over to your users’ homes and offices and watch them use your stuff like you did when there were only a handful of them.
Listening actively and efficiently can be demanding of your time. That why just subscribing to the “Do things that don’t scale” might be unrealistic. You also have to do it smartly. If you don’t, chances are you won’t have time for a lot of the other things you’d like to do. Thanks to a few ideas (none of them are rocket science), we manage to actively interact with Solid users.
Here are the 5 things we’ve done to gather user feedback, and that are going to keep doing even after we’re out of the private beta.
Email: friendly, straight-to-the-point, answerable, shareable within our team
Do you have a drip email in place for new users? Are you at least using one of them to ask for feedback? If you aren’t, then you’re missing out on the easiest way to gather opinions while doing basically nothing. Good places to ask for feedback are:
1. At some point in the drip email, after the user has engaged a bit on your product
2. After users stopped logging into your product alltogether (after 30 days of being inactive, our (non)users receive a mail from us with a gif of a friendly bear that says we miss them, and asks why they didn’t keep logging in).
We do our best to be friendly. But that goes without saying.
We’re straight-to-the-point. It’s email. I love some emails that are super long reads, but none of them are from startups or products that I use. If your copy delights me, that’s great. If it’s short, that’s greater. If your copy both delights me and is short, that’s the greatest.
You can answer to all our emails. Never go for the firstname.lastname@example.org sender address. I’m seeing more and more startups sending their emails from the CEO, from the marketing guy, the head-of-support or the product girl. Who sends the email doesn’t matter much here. What matters is that it’s an actual person doing it, even if the email send is automated. Most of all, users can hit reply knowing that it’ll reach a real human being.
It’s easy for our team to access emails containing feedback. Ideally, everybody working on your product should have at least some sense of what users are saying about it. Also, feedback and requests should get answered, so it’s important to not rely on a single person to do that. Zapier’s CTO answered one of our tickets recently. That felt good. We set this up pretty easily with Intercom.
Slack community: let engaged users engage
One of the emails new Solid users receive is an invitation from our CEO to join our Slack Community of Beta testers. Having conversations is great to move fast and clarify potential misinterpretations on our side. And Slack… well, it’s great to have conversations, so it’s a match made in heaven. We’ve pushed quite a few features that were specifically requested via Slack, and will keep doing so. It’s definitely made for the most passionate users, ensuring a well-targeted feedback. For example, it helped us gather a ton of life-saving information on our Evernote integration early on.
We’ve also shared early screenshots and sketches of features we wanted to launch, but didn’t know exactly how. This helped see early reactions as well as gather interesting suggestions on improvements that we didn’t think about.
In-app support/feedback: with Chatlio, support via Slack is a thing
If you’re anything like us, chances are you’re already multiplying the apps, sites, spreadsheets, tools and whatnot in order just to have your app running. Integrating with a service to manage support is yet another task that you’ll pretty much have to deal with. Chatlio creates a chat interface for users of your app, and routes their questions directly to a channel on your Slack organization.
It didn’t take long for our developers to integrate Chatlio within our app. Besides, the Chatlio team was very reactive with our few requests and even coded a few things to facilitate our integration.
Inviting users over
Last month, we’ve held a barbecue at the Wisembly offices and extended the invite to our beta testers located in France. We’re looking to keep up with the practice as it helps in several fronts. First, you get to actually know who uses your app. You also learn more about what they love, like, don’t like, and don’t use at all. Which is all very helpful.
For users far from our offices, we try to hop on calls in order to do pretty much the same, but without the barbecue…
You get a lot honest answers and insight from a casual chat that you wouldn’t get with an asynchronous survey-filling session as a way to gather data. Which isn’t to say surveys are a thing to the past:
Getting more specific with surveys
We use surveys whenever we want to deepen our understanding of a specific part of our product. This can mean anything to exploring one feature or set of features, to understanding the context in which Solid is helpful for our users. Mozilla has a few suggestions for UX surveys that work.
As for creating the survey in itself, we’ve found Typeform to be the most pleasant way to conduct them. It’s easy for us to design them, and they’re pleasant and quick to reply to.
So these are the 5 things we do on a recurring basis to make sure we deliver a product people will actually use. Is there anything else you do we haven’t thought of?