* This article is part of a book called “How a Product Manager Can Keep Customers Happy when Releasing a Major Product Update“
Where did the start menu go? Microsoft learned the hard way that changing the user interface can kill an upgrade and lead to customer confusion and frustration.
With customized solutions, the needs of end-users change rapidly throughout the life-cycle of a product. Product managers and developers are faced with the dual-challenges of keeping pace with these ever-changing needs while keeping software approachable and user-friendly.
The Agile methodology is rapidly becoming the solution of choice to facilitate continual product upgrades. However, this approach can be challenging from a user experience perspective. Its pattern of short “sprints” may facilitate iterative product releases, but may fail to recognize the importance UX plays in the overall product value.
Agile was established by developers as a means of delivering value more immediately. Agile works on a compressed timescale to expedite the development process which oftentimes leads to skipping over user testing. However, pushing changes without user research is extremely risky; can create a sub-optimal experience for customers; and, at the extreme, lead to a loss of revenue. User testing and reliability must be fit into the short timeframe of a typical sprint-and-release cycle. Design validation and testing can avoid some of the dangers inherent in finalizing developer assumptions.
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How can you overcome this conflict? Here is how to minimize user disruption while upgrading your product using agile development methods:
1. Wireframing and Paper Prototyping must be incorporated into the development cycle. Some Agile experts suggest that sprints should be structured around fidelity rather than functionality—especially at the early stages of development.
2. Get end-user input from direct surveys, social media and CSM apps for a 360° view of needs.
3. Build in time for user research and testing. Abandoning these important steps can degrade the user experience.
4. Make and manage the right product specifications and roadmaps from user input.
5. Test user interfaces with the intended users themselves. Remember that the end-users can provide you with your most valuable feedback.
6. Focus on benefits to the user. Listen to your customers. Ensure that any new features make the product easier to use or add a needed capability that wasn’t previously available.
7. Make it easy to start using your product. Online interfaces and cloud-based apps make it easy for users to start using your product or service immediately. Avoid downloads or installations if possible.
8. Provide onscreen contextual guidance for instant user gratification and less support effort. Easily accessible online walkthrough (such as tip balloons or step-by-step guides provided through WalkMe technology) or tutorials (Wikis) can help simplify the transition.
9. Prevent errors through intuitive online help and make it easy to recover from them if they occur.
10. Ensure adequate training and support is available. Ensure that support engineers are available and adequately prepared, with a thorough understanding of changes to the interface and the addition of new features. Contextual online guidance can help here too.
Avoid disruptive changes whenever there is a product update to one of your software platforms by following these tips. It’s not easy, but it can be a lot easier.
This article is part of a White Paper called “How a Product Manager Can Keep Customers Happy when Releasing a Major Product Update.”
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The book covers a range of topics, including:
Chapter 1: 7 Mistakes Product Managers Make that Cause Customers to
Chapter 2: 10 Data-Backed Product Tips that Will Skyrocket User
Chapter 3: 4 Tools Product Managers Must Use to Heighten Customer
Chapter 4: Summary: A Product Manager’s Checklist to Balancing UX with