Solving customer pain point through simple prototyping and using my 20/10 rule

Prototyping is part of my work. I don’t trust product owners or analysts that do not prototype ideas and share them with the customer or another stakeholder. I will tell you more now about my strategy and I hope it can be useful for you.

I have grown the ability to listen, remember and prototype nearly live time, but since my buffer size is not so large I ask the customer to do short 30 min iterations, instead of just Q&A for 1 hour.

How does it usually work?

 

First meeting

Let’s have this imaginary situation – a customer approached me to create a very simple (from hers point of view) application to help her to run their business better. The first 20 minutes of our discussion I have been asking questions and in the next 10 I have been able to come up with an idea. After 30 minutes I had this ready – ugly, but useful

Prototype on Paper
Prototype on Paper

The customer was happy with the development, so we moved on to the next screens, again using 20+10-minute approach. At the end of the second working session, I had the full concept on paper together with a lot of notes and small indicators of interaction. (see the arrows and the kpi indicators)

 

Second meeting

I put all of these papers on a wall and I have created the first digital mock-up by using balsamiq (one of my favorite tools). I tried to make it as close to the paper version as possible spending half a day in just making it “clickable”, so I can present it later faster.

 

Digital Mock-up produced after the first meeting.
Digital Mock-up produced after the first meeting.

 

After that I had a presentation session with larger group of stakeholders (from customer’s side). In general they liked what they saw and asked when they could play with it. I told them I would give them a prototype in a week, noting that the prototype would not look like the one they saw today since the appearance would have to come come from our design team (mainly thinking about UX guys first). The agreed principles, however, would remain the same.

 

Third meeting

With all the screens and my notes I contacted our UX guys and Information architects. They gave me some advices on how to incorporate our company style, usability patterns, and UI into the prototype, using the information I have collected. The final result was smashing. I have created a small Js APP using the company framework to make a real looking prototype.

 

Part of the JS solution
Part of the JS solution
Another view of the JS prototype
Another view of the JS prototype

The customer was happy with the job we have done. I gave them the prototype to play with and we tracked their way of learning the new interfaces and their journey inside the app. We have collected useful data and that helped us a lot in developing the product.  By knowing what everyone expects I can write better tasks to the developers and will shorten my communication time with the customer and other stakeholders.

It was a huge success and I am planning to use this approach again.

How to engage us, developers to use your API.

There are tens of thousands of API’s available. More to come. Most of the companies though, have troubles engaging developers to use them. So I have decided to share a few thoughts and ideas on how you can do that, based on my experience.

Design your API well

Nobody likes powerful, but not developer-friendly APIs. Follow the “standards” in the area, but innovate a bit to make us (developers) happy and eager to learn more. I will not spend more time here, because I guess you are already building your API if you need the information below. If you are looking for more info on that subject, click here to read an excellent article.

Document your API

If you want other people to use it – document it well. Add examples for the most popular programming languages. Copy/ Paste/ Run is the first step to a great journey.

Do not forget the not-so-trending programming languages at the moment. Target people who explore them – they are the right group to start with.

Eat your own dog-food

Ask your internal developers to use the API. Get the feedback from them and make it better. I am not talking about the developers who wrote the API, they must use it of course. Try to engage other teams within the company (if you have any) to use the API.

Organize an internal Friday APIJam. Sit together in a room for a few hours and do something useful using the technologies you work with – don’t push them to learn new language or technique – just use the API focusing on the value.

Come up with nice awards for the most active participants, get some sweets and drinks (even beer) as well. Then ask the participants to present their work at the end and listen to their feedback.

 

Hack your API

Organize hackatons with external groups or jump into such organized by someone else – ask developers to hack the API and to create a small app that will serve theirs needs – then promote the effort and make those developers rockstars by using your PR channels.

The goal is not to test your API (as you do during the internal APIJam event), but to show the value that your API brings to the world. The Call for Action should be something like “use our API to build your own App”.

Create more initiatives like that. Repeat();

Connect

Get in touch with the local developer groups and go the their next meeting with some pizza and beer. Show them your data, ask for their feedback, show them your API, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Then create a fair process to work with communities around you – what you want from them and what’s in for them.

Discuss

Push the discussion around your API and manage it. Respond to comments immediately, ask for feedback and show how it is implemented. Post your API to reddit, Dzone and other similar sites and get real, honest feedback (together with some trolls, that’s inevitable)

Equilibrium

Treat your community members equally. Sometimes a new member can have a kick-butt idea and if you ignore him/her this can have negative impact overall. Focus on the value!

Partner up

Find partners to help you to get traction. Why don’t you contact your local startup accelerators and do something together to include your awesome API as an requirement for the next call? Does it work? Oh yeah!

Explore

Constantly explore new ways and hacks on how to engage the community, but remember – this must be a fair deal – every part should be happy and equally satisfied. This is your way towards an engaged community.

The best API ever?

No, it’s not yours. Is this one :)

 

What do you think?

Do you have a different experience? Please share!

 

More resources?

P.S The head image is under CC license by giorgiop5

 

How to measure customers’ satisfaction without asking them those boring questions

Let’s imagine you want to understand how happy your customers are with your product. According to the marketers there are several methods to do that, like NPS or Temper, but all of them require interaction with the customer.

Let’s be honest, most of the time people don’t want to answer stupid questions like “How do you feel about our new interface” and “Do you like our new red color?” and let’s be honest again and confess that no more than 10% of the users will answer those questions.

Of course you can use the data to create a magnificent dashboard and to convince the  management that your product rocks, but they can ask you some hard questions. “Then why are we losing money?” and “Why the Churn rate is so strange?” are just a couple of examples.

You don’t know.

Let’s take a step back and see what is important in this case. Let’s imagine we have a website where you offer content (video lessons, for example) and you are billing month by month.

 

Define your Groups and their Happiness KPIs

 

Let’s imagine that you have 2 main user groups (2 personas):

First Group – Constant Learners

Group of people interested in constant learning but not sure what they want to learn about (first).  These people will browse your content until they find something interesting and will spend time doing it.

What drives them?

  • They want to discover new topics.
  • They want to know a lot about everything.
  • They are interested in trending topics (no one will browse – How to create a chart in Excel)
  • They are thirsty about new knowledge.

Happiness KPIs (some of them):

  • Number of topics discovered
    • Minutes spent on each topic
  • Questions asked (onsite, outside)
  • Number of logins
  • Number of login patterns (do they log in every week or everyday at noon)
  • Number of points/certificates achieved (if you have such things)
  • Account lifetime

Second Group – Focused Learners

Group of people that are coming to your website to learn something specific – like python, because they need some tricks in their current work. They will find what they need and they will stick to it.

What drives them?

  • They want to learn something on a specific topic
  • They want something meaningful out of the topic fast
  • They want hands-on experience.

Happiness KPIs (some of them):

  • Finished % of  a topic.
  • Exercises completed (if any).
  • Questions asked.
  • Number of Video pauses (try to watch and code at the same time).

 

Ok. What’s next.

It’s obvious –

  • Define your own KPIs – you can use those above as an example.
  • Then try to put a “label” to any a small group of users. Is this user a [focused] learner or a [constant] learner. In the case above, get all users that have browsed more than 3 topics in the past month and assign them into the “constant” bucket and for the “focused” one, get all that have completed only 1 topic within the last month and have asked at least one question.
  • Track them to prove your claim – see if their behavior will remain the same – if it doesn’t – modify it.
  • The create a simple dashboard to visualize the data for the two groups – and create a marketing strategy around that – how to engage both groups and push them gently on the success path.

This is how you can measure customer happiness without asking your visitors boring questions and to give them the opportunity to lie, because most probably at the end of the month you will see most of your “We like this new red button”- type of users leaving your service forever.