Code is for humans. That’s somewhat of a mantra here at Radial Development Group. So when users of our applications complain, we listen. That doesn’t mean we do what they say. In case that’s a little confusing, let’s clarify with an example.
A Long Time Ago, In A Galaxy Far, Far Away…
We had a software client whose users hated logging in to a coupon app we had built for them. The users could never remember their passwords and so they had login problems. They begged to be authenticated in a different way, without having to log in and remember those complicated passwords.
The client told us to do what the users asked. So, with a somewhat queasy feeling in our stomachs, we removed authentication from the application, and used a different, much less secure way to identify users.
The problem? This new “feature” was easily hacked by savvy users. They could log in as others, and the functionality of the app became nearly meaningless.
Looking back, when we think about what went wrong, the problem was not that our client listened to his users. It’s that our client wanted to do exactly what they said. If remembering complex passwords results in customers not using the product, something did need to change. Removing authentication entirely, though, was the wrong solution.
Now remember, this happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far, away. It was before you could use Google or Facebook to log into accounts, or get a text with a login code. But there were better solutions, and we should have relied on our expertise to help the client listen to his users, but not do exactly what they asked.
The Loudest User Is Not Necessarily Your Customer
Another issue with listening to users is that the voice you hear most may not be your target customer. Users will ask for the moon, and that will cost you. You can implement social sharing, XX, or YY, but if that doesn’t get you more paying customers, it’s a waste of your money.
Feedback is a Service, not a Solution
Iterating on your product based on customer feedback is extremely important. It’s understandable that businesses get excited about that feedback. We often hear comments like: “They said they can’t find the button at the bottom, and we should put it at the top!” Or, “The customers are putting the wrong information in the input field, so we need to make the instructions much longer and more clear.”
In both these cases, users have done you a great service. They have identified what doesn’t work about your application. However, since they are inexpert, you should take their suggestions on how to fix it with a grain of salt.
Experience Is Your Guide
Our collective experience developing apps over many years means we often know better ways to fix a problem. If an input field is being misused, it’s likely that more instructions are not the solution. Instead, perhaps the form field should be located where it makes more sense in terms of the flow of the application.
In some cases we’ll turn to the expertise of user experience designers to solve these problems. After all, they have trained professionally on solving the very problems your users are experiencing.
There is not a one-size fits all solution to every problem, because each application has different goals and different users. Our years of working in code (even in far away galaxies!) means we have likely encountered something similar, and can come up with a solution that best fits your application.