November 1st, 2016
The Value of User Feedback
Once upon a time I used to sell a little app called AudioGizmo Ringtone Creator, which aimed to solve the problem of obtaining high-quality ringtones for the newer devices (in 2005-2006) that supported MP3 and AAC audio formats.
When I set out to write the app, I thought most people were having a difficult time navigating the complex user interfaces of existing audio software. Programs like Audacity were available and very powerful, but I assumed only expert users were open to the idea of audio editing. Then I had the most amazing idea: Why not ask my users? After running through a round of beta testing and user feedback, it turned out my assumption was very wrong.
In fact, the main obstacle for most people was not editing MP3s, but rather how to get the finished product onto their phones. Evidently, people were already comfortable using audio editing tools already and my initial development effort to make this even process easier was not as useful a feature as I’d hoped. Users were actually very open in sharing this opinion with me - sometimes not so politely.
Anyway, it became clear that I needed to solve a very different problem than the one I originally addressed. AudioGizmo needed to make the process of getting an MP3 off one’s computer and onto their phone as painless as possible. So, I took a look at what other apps were (not) doing and came up with a plan. AudioGizmo would solve this by sending users a text message with a direct link to their created ringtone so that they could download the file via their phone’s web browser. It would also take into account what formats each phone supported and the capabilities of their web browsers so that users wouldn’t have to worry about anything except a click.
In less than two weeks I had a new release of AudioGizmo, and within two weeks from its release date it had nearly 50,000 downloads on Download.com.
The most valuable takeaway from my experience was to cherish - not just accept - user feedback, especially in the early stages of development. Had I not held an impromptu round of beta testing I might have never known what users really wanted, and as a result AudioGizmo would have been a huge disappointment.