One of the most important things that I have come to realize over the course of my career is that at the end of the day, the user is always right, and their opinion matters most. That might fly in the face of what a lot of people think, but if you take a step back and think about it, it makes a lot of sense. No matter what it is that you are building, you should be paying the most attention to your end users. They are the ones who will drive usage of your app, tool, widget, etc, so you will need to make sure they are happy with what was built.
I happened to come across an article the other day, and it really struck home for me. John Gruber linked to a post from Charlie Kindel talking about why nobody can copy what Apple has been doing, and Charlie made a very astute observation:
It only focuses on one customer: The Consumer.
If you step back and think about, it makes a lot of sense. Apple is completely, and solely focused on their end user, and everything they do is tied to delivering the best possible product for that end user. There are other people that end up using their products, but as their primary market is the consumer, they put all their attention towards delivering the best experience for that user. That may be completely against what is needed to deliver a good experience for other user types, but they are ok with that, as those users aren’t their target.
So how do you deliver the best experience for your end user? I am glad you asked…read on to see my thoughts!
There are several things that can go into making sure you are delivering the best product for your customers. One of the most important things is that you take the time to actually sit down with your users, and walk through their expectations. Whether you have an existing product you are replacing, or are just walking through the requirements, it is important that you sit down and work with them face-to-face, and start looking at things from their perspective. This will give you a tremendous insight into how the product is/will be used. I can almost guarantee you that no matter how well you think you know how a user will use your product, they will come up with a way to use it that was never anticipated. It is in the uncovering of these usages where you will win over your user.
Another great tool that you have at your disposal is actual end-user testing. This can come in many forms, whether it is an actual UAT test phase, a beta test or just reaching out to an actual end user. The QA department involvement in this can come in many different forms, whether it be coordinating the actual tests, or just responding to the feedback given. Regardless of what you call this phase, at the end of it, you should have a pretty good idea of what the users are expecting from your product, and how they are going to use it in a real-world setting. This is precisely why this sort of testing should happen more towards the end of the development period, when your product is mostly complete, and can be experienced most fully.
Tools such as TestFlight or Hockey are great at allowing you to distribute an app and then receive live feedback as to how your app is being used, and they can even solicit feedback directly within the app as the users go through them. This provides incredibly valuable feedback not only to how your app is being used, but also allows you an insight into how your app fares in a real-world environment.
Regardless of how you choose to measure & gather this information, if you want to deliver the best product possible, it is important that you do gather it. Ultimately, you want people to use your product, and the best way to do that is build a product that they want to use. One where even if there are others options available, they want to use yours. That is when you will know you have delivered a truly quality product.
I know this article strays outside of what many would consider the purview of the QA department, but the reality is that it really isn’t. QA stands for Quality Assurance, and that means ensuring quality at all points in the process, and not once it has been tossed over the fence to you. You should own the quality of your product from the minute it is conceived, right up until it is delivered, and in some cases, even after!