Listening is a useful skill for product development

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, April 9, 2013, 9:38 PM | comments: 0

I wrote previously about how awesome the feedback has been from the folks on CoasterBuzz with regard to the development of POP Forums. So useful, in fact, that it has really reinforced my desire to listen to the people who most use my stuff.

Keep in mind that this has always been something I've taken to heart. I briefly worked on one product team that was marching toward a big bang moment after a year with almost no validation from potential customers, and it drove me completely nuts. Still, I have to admit that there are also times when I felt like I knew better, and maybe I didn't.

Going in and out of product development roles (by development I mean the refinement of something, not so much the production of it) for many years, I'm always amazed at the balance you have to strike between trying to be visionary and listening to your customers or stakeholders. Most of us are not, and never will be, great arbiters of taste in the way that someone like Steve Jobs was. The best we can do is make real things and get them in front of people, because they'll let us know really quickly if we've taken a wrong turn. If you really think about it, that's a pretty low risk strategy. Even if you get it only half right, the feedback will get you on a clear path.

Once v11 of the forum is out the door, the next version will be a little harder. It will be time to finally address the legacy of search engine discoverability with modern user experience. The new version is all real-timey, in the way that Facebook has stuff magically appearing in the page, but there's still a lot of legacy stuff in the interface that is there mostly to keep stuff discoverable. It's the first hard problem I've had in years with that forum, but critical because stats from my own communities show that the long-tail SEO benefit of all of those conversations is fairly enormous.


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