In the agile world of online-app and mobile development, changes happen in real time, and users are expected to go with the flow. Users, on the other hand, aren’t prone to appreciate the hard work of development efforts when it interferes with their habits, assumptions, or productivity. Just ask the multitude of social media users how much they appreciate “site improvements” that cause them to go hunting for features they’ve used daily for months, or even years. The dissenting opinions resonate around the world for weeks after each new feature is introduced as a result of app updates.
How, then, can application updates hit the market without bringing out the pitchfork-wielding mobs? Here are six suggestions to keep your site or app moving forward without alienating your users.
Test adequately throughout every development cycle. User adoption and satisfaction both rely heavily upon system stability. If your updates have a history of being unstable or unusable, your users will lose interest and stop coming back. If you are uncertain about the viability of a new feature, conduct field research and user acceptance testing prior to implementation. You can also offer limited beta releases to field test new features with focused user groups who will give reliable, actionable feedback. Once you have a development effort ready for potential release, conduct thorough regression testing to validate your new features against existing code. After your new features are live, monitor user feedback and act on issues immediately if they arise in order to keep your users confident in your commitment to quality.
Be consistent; be predictable; stick to your plan. It might seem counter-intuitive, given the changeable nature of Agile development practices, that consistency, predictability, and planning should be toward the top of this list. The Agile process model, by its very nature, is flexible enough to support rapid adaption to changing technologies and project needs. Consistency, in this case, speaks to the timing of your product releases. If your application rolls out updates on the same day each week, month, or quarter, your users will come to expect these changes. Try to minimize mid-stream releases, reserving them only for emergency patches and critical bug fixes.
Strategize big, but release small. Chances are, your Agile project initially released as an MVP – Minimum Viable Product. When you release an MVP, you carve out exactly what your users need the most, and you save the rest for later. The key to successful application updates is to continually act as if you’re releasing an MVP. You have a grand vision and a roadmap to get you there, and you have a backlog of amazing features yet-to-be-developed. Don’t try to push them all at once. Upon each release, push out only the next set of MVP updates. Allow those new features to sink in, gain adoption, and grow organically based on real user feedback, because remember…
It’s all about your users. You wouldn’t be producing an application if you didn’t have users. In the online-development world, we talk a lot about User Experience (UX). When you update your product, you’re asking your users a question: “Do you like it?” In today’s Internet world, users are apt to offer their strongest opinions. If you don’t get a lot of response to your new features, you can safely assume that your users are generally satisfied, but probably not wowed. If you get very strong positive responses, you know that you’re on to something. Use that feedback to tailor future releases to maintain your momentum. However, if your users respond negatively, consider rolling back your update and re-envisioning your design.
Sometimes, it’s about your app. If security, regulatory, or business changes are a factor in your update, your users might have to deal with your changes whether they like them or not. If your users end up hating a required update, you’re going to have to work some PR magic. Try to anticipate this scenario before it happens. Make your user aware of upcoming changes and explain the regulatory, security, or strategic nature of the release so that it instills confidence in your users. If, for example, you have to change your password criteria to protect user data, let your consumers know that the change – while potentially inconvenient – offers best-in-class security to protect them from fraud.
Offer a non-intrusive new-feature guide. In days-long-gone, software updates came with “readme” files that contained release notes. What we learned is simple: your average user doesn’t read release notes. In order to accommodate the fast-paced, online world, you need to highlight new features in an engaging – and non-annoying – manner. Offer your users a “new feature” on-screen tour that they can choose to either follow or ignore. Make sure you thoroughly test your feature guide so that it activates upon first load of your updated system, and it remains silent when the user turns it off. Also, make sure that the disable feature for your feature guide is clearly visible and always available. Don’t force your user to follow your guide.
When you add new features to your application, you’re not going to make every user happy. However, if you follow these tips, your application releases have the best chance for success.
If you’re struggling to maintain your application, give the experts at Gate6 a call. Our Agile experts can have you turning out regular feature releases that get your closer to your goals while maintaining – and improving – your customer satisfaction.