What are your thoughts on how much user feedback/input should be involved in product UX design and at what point should you seek the feedback? So for example, should the functionality and “polish” be 50% there or 95% there before putting it in front of users or somewhere in between? We want to start collecting user feedback in an alpha release soon, but also don’t want to ruin our first impressions from users until it’s more polished. It seems like a balancing act of timing.
This is a somewhat common question in conversations I have, so I figured it’s a good idea to answer it here.
How much user feedback should be involved in product design?
The easy answer is “as much as possible”, but that’s not the whole picture. You can go get feedback on your product from dozens of people tomorrow. Just walk out on the street and start asking people questions. You have to be careful, though, and not just because you might get pepper sprayed.
You have to ask the right people.
Before you ask anyone a question about the thing you’re building you have to make sure they are the target person your product is for. It’s an extreme example, but you wouldn’t ask a 23 year woman about a product for 67 year old men. She isn’t who the product is for, so why would she have any valuable feedback to give?!
If you don’t know who you’re designing for, you’re doomed to fail from the start. Start by defining your target market, then define personas within that market who define and fit the profile of your ideal customer. Once you’ve done that you can go find people in the real world who fit that description. There are a handful of ways to find them, most of which are pretty easy and low cost.
Now back to the question…
The sooner you get an initial round of user feedback the better. Just be careful not to ask people about too many things at once. Keep your research very focused. You can ask about the overall aesthetic of the product, OR ask about a specific workflow or feature, but don’t ask people too much or the answers will start to skew.
About First Impressions
While it’s true that you can’t ever get them back, you can’t allow yourself to think that one handful of people’s first impressions will set the reputation of your product for life. Literally every product you use today started as a crappy drawing on a napkin, paper prototype, or sketch on a whiteboard. Then someone took a photo and started iterating. Slowly the product evolved into the thing you’re using today. Having doubts? Have a look at how some popular websites looked at launch.
Ask Early. Ask Often. Vary Your Audience.
Bottom line, ask (the right) people about what you’re building as soon as you can. Then get them to come back in a few weeks once you’ve made some progress and ask them how it works. This is user-centered design and it’s proven to work well in a variety of environments.
Don’t ask the same people over and over and over! Get different groups of people together (make sure they represent your target market and defined personas) as you build. The more people you can show your product to as you build it, and make them a part of the design process, the more chance you’ll have at building a loyal audience for the product once it actually launches.
Happy user testing!