Value Your Users

On a QA panel at Local Search Summit I was asked the questions about the future of social media tools, and since there are two main players (twitter, and facebook) should we only focus our attention on building communities, and driving leads via those two platforms. I responded by suggesting that the the approach is wrong, and that if we learn to build relevant community for ourselves and for our clients then the tools that we use wont matter, and will require only a minor adjustments to take advantage of. We not only limit ourselves, but risk ourselves having all our tools in one bask so that NOT IF BUT WHEN the landscape changes we are stuck using old outdated methods.

This lead me to start thinking about the future of social media, and design communities, and the apps that we use to interact, and build for our clients. The more I thought about it it became clear to me that whichever of these platforms/apps (Twitter, Facebook) listen to their users and provide the right experience, even if it means new initiatives that are different from their current path, they will be the ones that win.

So to add to the previous posts “Value Your Design“, and “Valuing Your Design Community” I have put together this post about valuing your users in which we will look at three simple ways to value our users, and push our applications and products to the front of the line.

Listen and Learn

If we hope to build sites, applications, and products that not only succeed, but do so in the long run, then we need to perfect the art of listening. We need to be able to hear what our users are asking for and not filter it through the prejudice of what think is right or wrong.

Providing the right solution is a matter of hearing client needs (from their perspective) and applying our knowledge base and experience to provide the services/products that solve the right problems and answer the right questions.

The more we listen to and try to understand what are clients/users are looking for, we can refine our products, and processes in an effort to keep them engaged, and appeal to potential users and clients. With our users in mind and the right vision we can plan, and develop successful applications that don’t fade, because they are based on user needs, not trends.

Keep an Open Mind

It can be very easy to rely on what we know, or past successes as we continue develop and build applications. Leaning on experience is a good thing in most cases, but when it interferes with our ability to accept change and have fresh vision we end up limiting our chances for new and continued successes. Look at some of the popular social networks that have come and gone… or are still around but not really in the discussion anymore( i.e. friendster, myspace). They have been surpassed by Facebook, and social applications like Twitter, mostly because these applications have listened to their users and provided a more appealing experience. Both Facebook and Twitter have also struck an interest with businesses trying to provide a more personal touch, and extend their reach to more potential clients and users. They have broken the mold that social networks are for college students, bands, and teenagers.

It is the ability to take risks at the right times while embracing a new approach that have set these networks apart, and if they continue to listen to their users they will continue to be around for quite some time.

Don’t Improve, Innovate

If we truly want to value our users, we do well to be innovative. When we are int he heat of producing applications and products, it can become easy to look at what the “competition” is doing and simply try to do that better. I think can be a serious set back if we let it control the direction of the apps, designs, and products we are creating for our users(remember clients users, are our users).

It is definitely useful to see what others are creating and what the response of their users are, but we owe it to our clients and users to take the initiative and look past what others are doing, and be proactive in pushing the limits of our apps, designs, and products.

Now I am not saying that everything we create has to be revolutionary and end up as a part of Oprah’s book club, this is more a cautionary thought to not just do enough to be better that what someone else has already done. Yes we should look to take the functionality, and experience beyond what others are doing with their apps if we are to make an impact, but again the  key to doing this is listening to your users.

Wrapping Up

This has been a very brief overview of a concept that has bouncing around in my head. I am sure this discussion can go a lot further in depth, the more research I do on the topic I will compile into a series of posts or something like that.

I would like to hear your thoughts on valuing your users, and what you have learned from listening, or not listening to them.

20. August 2009 by Aaron Irizarry
Categories: Design/Development, User Experience | Tags: , , , , , | 7 comments