Feedback loops are usually used to refine an MVP (minimum viable product). By adopting feedback loops you're able to discern the users true needs, ensuring a good product market fit. We believe there are three stages any successful app will progress through in its lifetime. To help illustrate these, I'll refer to a fictitious company from our case studies, Festival Friends.
Stage 1: Walk through
Your end goal should be for any random user to pick up your app and instantly know what to do, or the onboarding is clear enough that they can learn everything they need to without contacting support.
However this isn't where you'll start. Initially you'll need to walk users through the application, instructing them where they can find certain features and what those features do. This might take place while the application is still in a beta environment. That way you're able to make changes before releasing it into the production environment. Beta programs are a result of project managers seeking that initial user feedback before committing to a public release.
If we take Festival Friends as an example, the first stage might include attending a festival, setting up a stall and showing people how to use the application in person. This would allow the project manager to make observations about how users expect the application to perform.
Stage 2: Systemise
With this initial feedback, the next step is to systemise your application. This consists of taking the feedback you received during stage 1 and tweaking your application so that a 'walk through' is no longer necessary. It's easy to see the importance of this step. Verbal communication is not scalable, a systemised application is.
So, once our Festival Friends employees have finished gathering feedback from the app demonstrations we're able to systemise it. Now it's time to trial Festival Friends 2.0. We will need to release the app into a production environment if it was previously in a beta environment. This means the app is live and ready for public use. Because this is the first production release, we're hesitant to promote the app widely. Instead, we promote the app heavily at one particular festival. Conceptually, it's similar to the previous stage however this time we won't walk users through the app navigation. Instead, users should be capable of using the app without external assistance. After the festival, we can survey users to determine which features were found and used and which weren't. From this next feedback loop, we can look to optimise the application.
Stage 3: Optimise
The final (and in all likelihood, the longest) stage is to optimise the application. This entails refining the application to improve its usability. The beauty of feedback loops is that you're able to continuously refine the application because you're listening to your users. Stage 3 should be ongoing.
Referring back to festival friends, if, after the release there is a demand for multi-user tracking then we can optimise the application to include that capability.
If you're unsure about the product market fit and don't want to invest in development without some user feedback then prototyping is your best option. We use a prototyping tool called Invision. It gives the creates basic interactions so that users are able to click through screens. This gives the project manager an idea of how the software will function without the investment to actually make it happen. We utilise prototyping during our scoping phase to give partners an idea of how their software will function. Get in contact with us if you'd like to learn more about our prototyping process.
Many project owners panic when an application doesn't immediately progress to stage 2. The reality is that it's unlikely a user will be able to pick up your app and know exactly what to do. But the yellow brick road is littered with feedback loops. Be sure to use them to get to the Emerald City.