Don't Rearrange the Desks On Your Users

Colleen thinks about how to hone in on her MVP, and Michele talks about how to get into customers' heads.

Michele Hansen 
Welcome to the Software Social podcast. I'm Michele Hansen.

Colleen Schnettler 
And I'm Colleen Schnettler .

Michele Hansen 
So Colleen, tell me what's going on this week.

Colleen Schnettler 
So I unfortunately have not had a whole lot of time to work on my side project this week, because life has been crazy. I've been swamped with client work and family stuff. So I didn't really do anything.

Michele Hansen 
That happens! Right? Especially during COVID times.

Colleen Schnettler 
Yes!

Michele Hansen 
How much free time does anyone really have right now, especially if you have kids?

Colleen Schnettler 
Yes. Balancing the kids and the clients and the work and the side project work has definitely been quite a lot.

Michele Hansen 
You've basically got two sets of clients because the kids themselves are, you know...

Colleen Schnettler 
Yeah!

Michele Hansen 
...Pop in every 15 minutes and need things.

Colleen Schnettler 
Yes. And I'll work for three hours. And then they'll be like, Mommy, why aren't you spending any time with us? I'm like, only worked for three hours. It's because you're here all day. You're not at school where you're supposed to be! Anyway, anyway.

Michele Hansen 
So the small amount of time you didn't get to spend on your side project.

Colleen Schnettler 
So the small amount of time I did get to spend on my side project, I was chatting with a friend of mine about some of the technical challenges I'm having. And I'm having this really one specific problem where uploading multiple images is not working the way I want it to. And he suggested I ditch that -- he thought that having a multiple image upload was beyond the purview of an MVP. And I should just get it working with one image just to get something out there. Right just to get my foot in the door.

Michele Hansen 
Hmm.

Colleen Schnettler 
What do you think about that advice?

Michele Hansen 
I was gonna ask you what you thought of it first.

Colleen Schnettler 
I think it's good advice. Because one of the things I've one of the problems I always have is taking that first step and getting something out there because I just continually -- as I've been going through this, I continually want to add features, I got totally distracted with my lambda API gateway stuff last week. And that stuff is really cool, but totally beyond the initial scope of what I was trying to build. And I think for me, like I kind of got to get in the game, like, I've just got to get something out there to keep me motivated, and to get people using it and see if people want multiple image support.

Michele Hansen 
And also to get you using it right, because you've mentioned that you would use this with your clients and your time is at a premium. And so if you can start using it, that will be a form of feedback on on the product.

Colleen Schnettler 
Right? Like I am going to be hopefully my own best user of my own product, because I will get to use it and see like where the errors are. I know I want multiple image support. But what I can put out now is still better than what they're using. And I can still use it, you know, adding one image at a time, if I want, or I could use my part for the single images and use something else, a custom solution, for multiple images. I just feel like this is something that is taking me forever. And it's not really taking forever, but it's just something I need to get out there. And I was reading this article about like, what makes a good MVP and it wasn't about having a ton of features it was but it was also not about having a crappy product, like you need a tight product, you need a really good product with the minimal amount of features to make it viable.

Michele Hansen 
It's a tough concept, right? Because there there's this graphic that I I'm gonna have to share it because I'm gonna totally butcher it. But basically it's you know, the MVP of a car is not, you know, four wheels with a platform. The MVP of a car is a scooter because it still gets you from A to B like that's the the job of the product is to transport you from one place to another. But it's a very simple version of it, you know, it doesn't have features like a roof or, you know, multiple seating support, right? But it still gets you there. But there's very often when you see MVPs built, it's, you know, something that is a shell of what the product was supposed to be and isn't actually useful.

Colleen Schnettler 
Right! So that's my goal.

Michele Hansen 
So I think there definitely, there is that temptation, though, to sit on it until you've built you know, a Tesla, right? And you need to get it out there sooner than that and get feedback and I think there's also a certain pressure to not put things out there until it's perfect because I think we get afraid that it's gonna, it's gonna be criticized and people aren't gonna like it and they're gonna tell you how it's incomplete in ways that you already know. And I think it's really easy to build up a lot of fear around that, I mean. I'll tell you that like, features that people told us were boilerplate when we launched, we still haven't launched them, and we may never launch them. So...

Colleen Schnettler 
Oh, wow.

Michele Hansen 
Yeah. Like we don't have global support. And it has not been a problem for us. But that was something that people asked for on day one. And if we had waited until we had global support, we never would have launched.

Colleen Schnettler 
Right.

Michele Hansen 
We launched with just what we needed, which was coverage for the US, and honestly was not that great when we launched it either. But we launched with that, which was very simple. It was what we needed. And then we took it from there. But we didn't wait until it was totally perfect mirror image of major competitor products out there.

Colleen Schnettler 
Yeah, so I think for me, what I have now for these guys is single file, upload one at a time, and so I can build it as a single file upload one at a time. And I can utilize it on my existing application. And it could still be useful for people. And then I could, I mean, I could get that version out there. And then I could work on the multiple file support. And some of the other things if I decide that I need it.

Michele Hansen 
Yeah, and if there's demand for it, and, you know, of course, there's always the complication of when you build something, it's not always easy to build other things on top of it that it wasn't built for. And so, you know, something to keep in mind that you know, at some point, you're going to want batch support, and so making architectural decisions that won't inhibit that, but also not committing yourself to that and the architecture at the same time is a tricky thing to do.

Colleen Schnettler 
Yeah, I think I can do it with this, with this setup that I have now. So I think that'll work. So I think that's my new plan is just to finish it. Just to finish. So that's my short but sweet update for this week. So what have you been doing?

Michele Hansen 
So I've been thinking a lot about customer research which, you know...

Colleen Schnettler 
This is my favorite topic.

Michele Hansen 
This is MY favorite topic!

[laughter]

So we are going to be launching a new version of our dashboard. So our dashboard is where people can, you know, update billing settings, create API keys, look at their usage history, sort of administrative functions like that. And our dashboard. Speaking of when we launched on Bootstrap was super cool at the time. So everything was Bootstrap. And the dashboard is still Bootstrap and I think we upgraded it at some point a couple of years ago, like maybe two years ago, and I don't even know what version it's on, but does it even matter because it's still on Bootstrap. And that has really inhibited a lot of the functionality we've wanted to add and and usability improvements we've wanted to add like so for example, on our billing page, it's just one long, massive page because there's no like good support for a sub menu in Bootstrap. And so it's like, we can roll our own but, do we really want to do that? And like so? The answer is no. And so we're moving everything over to Tailwind has been awesome.

Colleen Schnettler 
Of course! That's the hotness.

Michele Hansen 
It is and, you know, and our marketing website has been on Tailwind for a long time now and it's been so great and it makes it so easy to add new elements like I was mentioning last week how I was working on adding landing pages. And like I actually finished all of our all of our landing pages have content pillars now, which is something I have been working on since last fall, which were...

Colleen Schnettler 
tell us what a content pillar is, please?

Michele Hansen 
Yes. So this is something I learned about from a mutual friend of ours, Michael Buckbee, who helps me with some SEO on our site. And one thing he mentioned was content pillars, which is basically just related links at the bottom. So, for example, on our website, someone might be looking at a customer page about real estate. So it talks about why people in real estate use Geocodio and then it has some customer logos, and then it has a testimonial, and then there's a call to action. The content pillars are at the very bottom, and then they link off to related content. So maybe it's like creating an API key or fetching FIPS codes at the same time. So like other things that that type of customer might want. And then you go to any of those pages, and you see the related content to the bottom. So for example, on our security page at the bottom, the content pillars are going to our privacy policy going to our terms of service, stuff about infrastructure, things like that. So everything is all linking together, which really helps with SEO, because it gives those other pages visibility. And it also helps when customers are coming into the site for the first time that they can see related content. Anyway.

So after I had I had talked to our friend about this, I asked Mathias my, my husband and co founder, if we could add these and because we were working with Tailwind on the marketing website, it was like super fast at it. And I was totally blown away. Because normally when I asked for features like that, it's kind of difficult, right? Especially if it was on Bootstrap. So that's the case on the on the dashboard.

So even though it's only a cosmetic redesign, it's not we're not actually changing or removing any functionality. I really want to do user testing on it.

Colleen Schnettler 
Okay.

Michele Hansen 
And It's always good to use your testing on it, though, I think. I've noticed that, when you're doing cosmetic redesigns, it's pretty common for people to not really warn users in advance. But early in my career, I got burned from this. We made some cosmetic upgrades to a website that had been the same for a very long time. And the users were not happy about it. And I really don't want to go through that again. And you know, if you're using a website every day, and all of a sudden it changes. that's pretty disorienting, right?

Colleen Schnettler 
Yeah, it's pretty annoying.

Michele Hansen 
Like, it's kind of like, I don't know, like, remember, like when you're in high school, and like, you'd go into a classroom and like, the teacher, like, rearranged the desks and everyone is like, WHAT HAPPENED?!

Colleen Schnettler 
Yeah, right.

Michele Hansen 
So like, it's kind of like that. And you know, I don't want to like freak out our users so I'm excited too, though, because I haven't done any user testing since the pandemic started.

Colleen Schnettler 
Oh, wow.

Michele Hansen 
Like Yeah, like or interviews. Um, I had the last one I did was Monday, March 6, I think it was like the Monday before school shut down and everything. Um, because as were talking about earlier, you know, when you've got kids running around at home and everything, it's really hard to get into a state of focus. And I find that the, the level of empathy required in order to do a good customer interview or usability session, like do you really have to, like submerge yourself into that person? It's very Being John Malkovich. Less creepy. But, you know, it's like you really have to get into their brain and understand how does the world look from their perspective and how do they perceive things and where were are difficulties, where are they spending a lot of time, what do they like, what don't they like.

Colleen Schnettler  
Okay, so I know a few questions about this. 

Michele Hansen  
Okay. 

Colleen Schnettler  
Question is I feel like you are approaching this differently than your typical developer. What are you going to do? A/B testing first, are you going to talk to people first?

Michele Hansen  
No talk to people first. 

Colleen Schnettler  
Yes, that's interesting. 

Michele Hansen  
So AB testing is good for when you have a very clear difference between things. And you've already gotten the feedback leading to it. So for example, if we did, like sales landing pages, for example, we don't really do but this is a good use case for AB tests, where you have one landing page. And then let's say you have the exact same sales landing page, but you want to test whether you add more call to action buttons throughout the page, rather than just at the very bottom. Does that increase or decrease conversions? You have a very clear change between the two. And you have a very clear metric for measuring that. When you're doing anything that involves qualitative changes, there's multiple changes involved it, and I think a B tests are a bit messy and I think over-used. Like there should be a lot of tools in your testing toolbox and AB tests are a great one to have in there, but they are not the right fit for not only every every question and also the life cycle of every question, right? Because it might come in at a later stage. But no, we're not gonna AB test it.

Colleen Schnettler  
Okay, so now you're going to discuss this change with your users before you make this change. What kind of questions do you ask? Because I feel like the aesthetics of a dashboard are so nebulous, qualitative, right? Oh, there's no good metrics to tie in there.

Michele Hansen  
Yeah, so what I'm going to be doing is basically what what UX people would call a top task analysis. 

Colleen Schnettler  
Okay. 

Michele Hansen  
So this is when you have like maybe 10 different activities that you know, someone should be able to complete on a website. And you want to see how easy it is for people to complete it. So you're testing how easy it is for people to understand what they can do on the website. So that's called discoverability. Right? See, so can they discover what they can do on the website? And then you might have different pieces of or different features that help them do those things called affordances. And you want to see, do those? Do they help them right? Or do they need them to function in different ways? 

So for example, one of the things on the dashboard is, we have seen that people don't realize that the clicking on their email address in the top right hand corner is actually a menu that pulls out things like adding team members to your account and or deleting your account things like other features like that. And because of the elements we're using with Tailwind, it's actually moving to the bottom left hand corner. So first of all, I want to see if they can even find that account menu. And then if I were to ask them just looking at the dashboard itself, you know, I would say for example, "Can you show me where you might add a team member to your account?" And then I will give them some time to do that. Don't prompt them, don't lead them in any way, and you're testing the website, not them, it's always a very important thing to stress. And then if they can't, then I take notes and be like, okay, we need to make it more obvious that you can do, you know, adding a team member to your account, for example. And so I'm going to make a list of about 10 different tasks. The number of tasks that you might have for top task analysis may vary. So where I worked previously, we would send out surveys asking people, what are the different kinds of things that you want to be able to do, we would look at, you know, website traffic data, seeing which pages are getting the most traffic, you know, and use that to determine what the top task list was. We're a much more simple operation than that. So I'm just going to come up with a list myself based on our understanding of our users. There's, and there will probably be something that we don't test for. Um, so you know, there will be opportunities for free, you know, expression in the interview and then I would also like to send out a sample clickable version of the dashboard to all of our paying customers before it launches as well just so that they know what's coming, and we're not going to do that whole, you know, teacher-rearranges-the-desks thing on them.

Colleen Schnettler  
So earlier, so the way I envisioned this away, you're describing it as you get on a call, like a Zoom call with one of your customers screenshare and you just watch them. Is that what you actually do?

Michele Hansen  
Yes, yes. So I have video off so this is...Yeah, so and we will have a demo clickable version of the dashboard they can go through.

Colleen Schnettler  
So earlier, when you when we started this topic you were talking about how you need a lot of empathy and what would you say melting melting into them or emotional? Like, like it seemed like it was really explained that? That was a little confusing to me.

Michele Hansen  
Feelings mumbo jumbo!

Colleen Schnettler  
I don't understand feelings.

Michele Hansen  
Right? So, basically what I mean by that is that you have to submerge yourself into how they perceive things. And you have to leave your own perceptions of something at the door, and you're going into it trying to just understand how things look from this person's perspective. So whether that's a usability interview and understanding, how do they use their computer? How do they use the service like, right, like, those are all different from person to person. I mean, it's fascinatingly different, right? Like, right um, and I think there definitely is a perception sometimes that especially, you know, people in the tech world have that everyone is as tech savvy as us, even our customers. And that is often not the case. 

Colleen Schnettler  
Yeah.

Michele Hansen  
And so these are really great opportunities to expand our own understanding of how other people use technology. And by being empathetic and how we develop and design things and understanding that other people have different skill levels and different comfort levels and different ways of processing information, we can create products and services that are better able to serve people, because I doubt there are everybody out there is building a product that is just for, you know, tech people under the age of 40, who are all digitally native, like maybe that's who you're starting out with. But hopefully if you're successful, your market is going to expand and you're going to need to expand beyond thinking like yourself and understanding how other people who are very different than yourself think. So whether that's in a usability session where you're trying to understand how they use a website or a service, or an interview where you're trying to understand how they get through a process and how how they feel about that and and how long it takes them and where they're struggling and where things are spending a lot of time and why they're even doing it in the first place.

Colleen Schnettler  
That's really interesting. I feel like as an engineer, I really struggled with that. I've done probably 15 customer interviews in these various products that I've been trying to build over the past couple years. And I always have a script -- well, not a script. I always have a list of questions, which is good because I don't forget anything. But I think I've really missed that nuance because like I asked the question, and they give an answer. And then I asked the next question and something I noticed when we got on the call today is I was telling you about how I might change my image thing, and what did you think about it? And you said, What do you think about it? And I was like, Oh, that's an excellent question. And so I kind of I feel like that kind of empathy, empathy for other people's thought processes or other people's like emotions tied to things. It's a challenging, it's challenging for me to really tap into that. Do you have any advice?

Michele Hansen  
Yeah, so people are always looking for, you know, verification or confirmation from others. Right. So that that happens fairly common in an interview where someone say, don't you think or right or...
 
Colleen Schnettler  
Yes!

Michele Hansen  
Yeah, so they'll use some phrasing that you makes you want to agree with them. And you have to deflect like, you have to say, what do you think about that? or can you tell me more about why you do it that particular way? or How did you come to do it that way, right? If you're very, very careful in phrasing things in a way that is not judgmental. I was fortunate enough to learn from two incredibly skilled and talented user experience researchers, one of whom has a basically has a PhD in this and getting to observe them for my couple first couple of dozen interviews. And, and having them in the room with me when I was learning really helped because there's so many times when people will not only ask for your opinion on things, they'll ask for your perspective on things. They also might insult you or say something that you personally find offensive or more often they'll say something that you think is ridiculous, or it sounds overly complicated and you want to jump in and be like, Well, have you thought about doing it this way? You can't do that, right? Because this whole purpose of it is to understand how, how they do it, what their process is, and then your job is you afterwards when you've had a chance to process it, take that later and say okay, they told me that when they're trying to accomplish this, they're doing these certain steps. And if I can target them with some marketing, when they're in this step, they might be interested in switching to using my product, because I know that they're doing these steps, even though those steps do not make sense to me and seemed very complicated to me, there's a whole reason why you have built whatever it is you have right to make something easier for someone else. 

Colleen Schnettler  
Right. 

Michele Hansen  
But in order to understand how to get them to understand that it's easier for them, you need to know the kinds of words that they're using their kinds of phrases using and then the whole process that they're going through. Otherwise, you're just targeting yourself, which is really useful in the beginning when you're building but not if you want to sell to other people.

Colleen Schnettler  
Right. Okay. Yeah, that's really good advice. Like that is definitely something I I have struggled with and I'm I'm working on I'm working very hard because I think that's how you connect with people, especially if it's someone you don't know, like some random user random person on the internet. You want to form you want to form like a level of connection by being an agreement on things, because it forms I feel like a level of trust. But I think if that goes too far, we're just, you know, echo chambering? Or like, Yes, I totally know what you mean or Oh, do it this way instead, it it does not enable you to actually find out, like how they could be your customer or where in their process you can help them.

Michele Hansen  
Yeah, and learning how to interview has taught me a lot about conversation in general too like, my natural conversation style is very enthusiastic, I really want to, you know, tell people when I agree with them and share my own experiences and build that kind of rapport, right. And what I have learned through doing this, actually is that people will have more affinity for you when you let them talk more, which is really surprising that it's doesn't actually come from sort of proving to them that you have, you're in agreement with them, but just being listened to is so powerful. And I think, especially these days, people aren't used to being listened to by companies, right? Like, I mean, how many amazing customer support experiences have you had versus how many have you had that were really disappointing and frustrating, and you felt like you weren't being listened to by the company?

Colleen Schnettler  
Mostly frustrating.

Michele Hansen  
And so when you're really listening to a customer, you can you can build that affinity by simply listening to them, and then you're going to do your own work with it later. And you'll have notes and you can use that for product development, marketing, you know, what have you. But in the moment, the strongest thing you can do to build affinity is, is just listen and let them talk. As much as possible. I think there's even some psychological studies on this that when people talk about themselves the parts of the brain related to enjoyment and pleasure and all those kinds of things and also social connection light up more than they do when they're hearing someone else talk. It's wild, I've noticed that users we do interviews with tend to become our most vocally supportive customers, even though that's not the intent of it at all.

Colleen Schnettler  
Wow. That's amazing. I mean, is are you a customer interviewer or are you a therapist? It's kind of hard to tell. Kidding. So this has been really great. Michelle, thank you so much for sharing.

Michele Hansen  
I am always happy to talk about this. The irony, right? You know, talking about listening to other people, it's not lost on me.
 
I just want to say how much we've appreciated everyone's positive feedback. So far, the number of nice tweets and emails and DMs and everything we've gotten has been really, really surprising and incredibly nice and really motivates us to keep going. So thank you to everyone who has reached out to us or posted a review. It means so much to us.

Colleen Schnettler  
Yes, thank you so much. All right. Until next week.


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