Eight years ago, we started working with businesses to help them build software for their users. These three questions could make you rethink your entire approach to building software.
We’ve all been there: You’re at work and so frustrated by your computer that you want to throw it out the window. Or worse, you’re sitting in a meeting where everyone talks about how much colleagues despise using their software. And while many may be tempted to blame our company’s developers for this problem, we should look at ourselves first—because it’s not just your company’s developers who are building software for their users.
Why is it Important to Keep the User in Mind When Building Software?
It’s essential to keep the user in mind when building software because it helps you produce software end-users will love. It is that simple because when you think about it, the success of every product depends on users! That is especially true if your users are not technologists but people who use technology in their jobs or lives.
Building software that is user-friendly means spending less time on bug fixes and focusing more on the product itself. In addition, it saves money by reducing rework and customer support costs (and may increase revenue through happier customers). Finally, by putting yourself in your users’ shoes at the beginning of every project, you can make sure that what you build makes sense for them—and then deliver a great experience for everyone involved.
Here are some user-friendly software examples: The best software is intuitive, fast, and reliable. But, to build that product, you must ensure your team is thinking about customers daily—especially during design meetings or when writing new features. If they’re not paying attention to how users will use it in real-life environments, they might as well be building a house in the middle of nowhere.
3 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Building Software
The software industry is full of success stories. Look at all the companies valued in the billions of dollars: Facebook, Google, Airbnb, Uber, and so on. Note “full of successful software.” There’s a difference between saying you built reliable, scalable software and building a company. Furthermore, if you’re using these companies as your inspiration, then perhaps you should consider that software’s good and bad points.
People get distracted by the grandeur, but they miss what the most important thing about it is. You can make thousands of features and options, but they have to mean something to the end user. It doesn’t matter if you’re an engineering manager or an individual contributor — at some point, you’ll have to deliver new functionality.
It could be an improvement to something you’ve built before or a completely new feature. As you start to the scope and plan this development, there are three questions you should ask yourself so that the outcome is aligned with your business needs and wants.
Who Would Use It?
Do you know those people who use your product? They’re called your users. Building software is like building a house without knowing what kind of person will live in it if you don’t have a clear picture of who they are and what they need.
Questions like “Who would use this?” and “What do they want to accomplish with it?” can help you get started on the right track. Here are some examples:
- What kind of user are we targeting? (This question helps clarify whether the product should target businesses or consumers.)
- Who makes up this group of potential users? Are these customers, employees, or partners? (This question helps define who exactly will be using the product.)
- What do our users hope to achieve with our product—and what needs does it fill for them? (This question gives essential insights into how users perceive their problems.)
- What’s been stopping them from doing it until now? This is the most important question if you want to win an audience and beat the competition.
To build software that people want, you have to know who your users are. Before a development team can get started on a project, they need to understand the intended audience for their product.
These are just some questions we ask when working with clients on new products and features. If you don’t take some time upfront to answer these questions, you’ll probably end up with something nobody wants or needs—and then there will be no users for your software product!
Does it Make Their Lives Easier?
Does the software you’re building make it easy for your users to do what they need to do? If there’s anything a software user hates, it’s having to spend a lot of time trying to figure out how the system works.
And if there’s anything that makes a software developer proud, it is knowing their code helped someone accomplish something quickly and easily. The best-designed systems give people confidence and ease as they work through tasks using them.
Imagine you work in a bank. Your job includes receiving deposits from customers and making payments to them. Unfortunately, suppose you’re using an outdated system that doesn’t give clear instructions or allow users to perform these simple tasks efficiently. In that case, your job will be more complicated than it needs to be.
How Important are These Features to Users?
Finally, this last question is worth asking yourself. It can be tricky because you need to know how much time and effort consumers will need to use your product or service. Perhaps some features are more important than others. But you have to know the entire working process to solve this puzzle.
Ask your customers if you’re still unsure about which features are essential for your product. Talk with them about what parts of their experience matter most and why. You can learn a lot through interviews with potential users or watching them interact with an early prototype of what you’re building. Now, take a moment to look at how your product addresses these questions.
When you’re building software, quality isn’t an accident—it’s a consequence of doing the right thing and doing it well. So how do you decide to do the right thing? How can you ensure that your software is quality at its core? Simple: start with the users.
As entrepreneurs, we fight to build great software. Yet, with so much fighting, beneath all that lies a battle of even greater magnitude. The battle for user engagement and loyalty. So what’s the secret?
Focus on the people who use your product—after all. They are the reason you are making any of these decisions in the first place. Responding to this challenge is one of the most important things you’ll do when building software. Otherwise, all the technical brilliance in the world will be useless until you find traction, engage your users and learn that the only way to figure out what they need is to ask them.