APP DEVELOPMENT

Utilising Feedback Loops to Improve Your Application

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.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Burkett

Growth en­thu­si­ast and res­i­dent pom

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