Testing Products with Real Customers

Okay, this is a bit of a rant today, but bear with me.

If you go looking for a particular product or service online, you’ll probably find that most of the products and services filling a particular niche are pretty similar. In fact, they often have nearly the exact same feature set. One may be more reliable than another, or sexier, or more responsive, etc, but they all allow you to do pretty much the same things.

That’s really annoying from a user perspective, when what you want to do isn’t supported. This happens to me all the time, but my most recent example is when I was looking for an online calendar to share with others. I immediately went to Google Calendar, because Google typically makes quality applications.

What I needed to do was to setup a recurring event, and then other events that depended on the date of the first event. For example, I needed an event the 2nd Wednesday of every month, and another event the Friday before that Wednesday.

The 2nd Wednesday of every month is supported by every free calendar I could find. The Friday before the 2nd Wednesday wasn’t supported by any of them. I couldn’t simply use the 1st Friday of the month, because the Friday before the 2nd Wednesday could be the 1st Friday, or the 2nd Friday, depending on how the days of the month fall.

So I couldn’t use any of the free calendars out there for my project. (If you know of any that will do what I want, please do let me know.)

I can only imagine that most of the calendars have based themselves off of previous calendar services, taking their feature set from the ones that have gone before. I run into this in service after service online, features that would be very useful are missing.

It’s important to test your product or service with real customers, who will use it in ways that you cannot imagine. They’ll stress the feature set to the breaking point and beyond, and give you feedback that will help you make it truly useful.

If all you do is write it based on what you do, or on what a similar product or service has done, then you’re not providing true value to your customers.

8 Replies to “Testing Products with Real Customers”

  1. [quote post=”566″]Case in point is XP and Vista just look at how many ‘updates’ they have.[/quote]

    *laugh* Don’t get me started on Windows OSes, that’ll be a real rant.

  2. Surveys only go so far, unfortunately. Nothing replaces having a random selection of real people actually using your product and telling you where it falls short.

  3. John, anyone who is involved with a group of people doing recurring tasks could use a web based calendar that is easily shared. In our case it’s an organic food co-op I run, and I need to communicate order dates, delivery dates, etc.

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