Product Management

How To Incorporate User Feedback Into Your Product: Tips From a Growing Startup

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Users will pull you in every direction if you let them.

Most user requests and ideas are well-intentioned, but they cover so many facets and directions that there’s no way you can do them all.

The easy part is getting ideas. The hard part is deciding which of your users’ ideas to implement, and then making those ideas simple.

Product owners and CEOs have to balance their own opinions with that of the users. Time and time again, failures in software products result from not allowing people to use it how they want.

At ClickUp, we’re building project management software. I didn’t see it when we started in this category, but each user has their own use cases and their own set of needs. We have to be flexible. So, we started with lots of customization options, and that’s what has carried us to more than 30,000 teams using ClickUp in less than a year. We want you to be creative and use ClickUp how you want.

But to what end? You can’t build everything, so how do you decide what to build?

Simple tests for what you should build

You can employ teams of UX researchers that have never used your product to do the dirty work for you, or you can listen to the people that know your product best.

Here’s our test for which requests you should consider:

  1. Would at least ~80% of current and future users use this feature? 
  2. Would we use this feature? 
  3. Would it take more than one month of engineering time to develop this feature? If so, only proceed if it creates a proprietary advantage against competition. If things are time consuming to develop, only develop them if it’s something unique.

It may sound simple, but if you can truly answer “yes” to the first two, then you’ve made the decision for yourself. The last question is meant to ensure you don’t end up building something that already exists. You must add unique value and that goes for every type of product or industry.

How can you answer the first (and most important) question? Would at least ~80% of current and future users use this feature?

At ClickUp, we’ve added a Feedback Platform where users can request features, and then the rest of the community can upvote and comment on what they think.

We’ve had thousands of requests there, so how can we manage the noise? By choosing what to listen to.

Why you want to listen to your users

  1. Duh. They use your product—most likely more than anyone on your team uses it. 
  2. They will be your cheerleaders. They are advocates, they want you to succeed. Build things for them and they’ll share with the world. 
  3. They’ve used your competitor’s products and therefore can give you advice on how to improve upon what your competition has already done.

Why you may not want to listen to your users

  1. They are selfish. Not in a bad way or anything—it’s just natural. They are thinking about features and ideas for their own uses that likely won’t fit the majority’s use cases.
  2. The most vocal users do not represent all users.
  3. Some requests offer little value but consume a massive amount of time.
  4. If you only have a handful of users, be extremely cautious. I would say ~100 is the golden number for having a large enough sample size to really use the data you’re taking in a meaningful way.
  5. If your users are not diversified, you’ll end up building a product that’s too targeted in one direction (and P.S.—you can’t go back).
  6. User requests generally don’t consider priorities, scope, and resources.

How to make a flexible product

Overall, you want a flexible product for customers—those are the people you’re helping and serving after all. But flexibility doesn’t mean gooey, taking any shape in your hands. It’s more like a popsicle stick—it can bend, but not break. 

Despite my bad metaphors, here are some factors to consider when customer requests come in.

  1. How popular is the request? Depending on the size of your user base, if several of your large clients and a strong base of users are asking for it, then that should be considered. Look for trends. 
  2. How is the marketplace moving? What are requests and complaints that you’re hearing from your customers that may not be making it back to your feedback board or customer success team? It should be part of product marketers or sales engineers to track these trends and report back to leadership on any significant findings as they arise.
  3. Does the request fit into your roadmap? A user or client may have a great idea to add to a feature that you’re already working on. Sometimes they may even have a solution you’ve never thought about! In this case, fitting in their request is a no-brainer.

Prioritizing the requests

Just because a request is the most popular doesn’t necessarily that it should get added right away. And it’s impossible to do everything all at once. To that end, you and your team will have to make some hard choices. 

Rank them in these categories:

  1. Do now: This is low hanging fruit. It’s easy to do and adds lots of value. 
  2. Do soon: This might not be as easy to do but gives you a competitive advantage.
  3. Do later: These are more difficult features that either exist already or aren’t as valuable. 
  4. Never do: Items that don’t fit into the checklist above.

Ultimately, the decision is up to your leadership team or product owners. You’ll probably make a mistake here and there, but the important thing to remember is that everyone feels heard—even your customers.

Fights like this are exactly where company culture can come undone and why your team communication must be on point.

Here’s the bottom line. The best way to make an incredible product is to use the product yourself and listen to the users that use your product. There’s just no reason to hire massive product teams or firms to do research around what people want. You have the best possible candidates for people already—and they’ll tell you what they want.

Zeb Evans is a serial entrepreneur that's started several software companies with over $50 million in revenue. Currently, he's founder and CEO at ClickUp, a productivity platform where people plan their work.