There are countless online products out there. It seems like the number of developer tools (CodeSandbox included) have been steadily increasing in quality and quantity over the years. One such tool is Netlify. Netlify’s Co-Founder and CEO Matt Biilmann was featured in the first episode of the Version One podcast. He discussed what made Netlify so successful in the early days of its development.
One key to success for Netlify was valuable user feedback. Matt prioritized user feedback in the early days of Netlify's development, sharing the product with a small group of early adopters.
"Matt... did a small launch to get feedback from a group of early adopters. This feedback was crucial."
When I heard this, I wanted to delve more deeply into this idea of using feedback from users to create a better product. What does valuable user feedback look like? Why is it important? How can you get this feedback?
Why you need user feedback
Simply put, having user feedback will help you to create a better product. When building a product, you should already have an audience in mind. To make sure your ideal audience actually uses and enjoys your product, you need to know what they’re thinking.
"Is this minimal first step, a step towards something bigger, or is it just something that doesn't really resonate? And what I learned quickly when I put it out there was that it resonated."
It’s so important to be in tune with your audience. As was the case with Matt, gathering feedback will quickly show you what your product's strong points are and where the need for improvement is. This will help you make decisions that will benefit your users and eventually lead to more people using your product. Valuable user feedback is one way to achieve this.
What is valuable user feedback?
User feedback comes in many different forms. It’s more than just feature requests or bug reports. Oftentimes, direct feedback about your product can fall into these categories. Although this isn’t a bad thing, it can create an imbalance and your feature backlog will just get bigger and bigger.
User feedback doesn't always have to be directly about your product. It’s no secret that developers are very opinionated. Use this to your advantage! Stay connected with the developer community and you’ll be able to easily determine what developers enjoy and what they dislike.
Again, this doesn’t have to be directly about your product. Knowing these things can help you gauge what users might think of your product. Determine where your product falls on the wide spectrum of developer likes and dislikes. Having both direct and indirect user feedback can create a healthy balance that will help you create the best product possible.
Where you can get user feedback
As mentioned earlier, there are two types of user feedback: indirect and direct. Both are important and can be found in different ways.
To find indirect feedback, you need to find the places that your ideal audience spends time at online. If you’re building a developer product, Twitter, Reddit, and Discord and Slack communities are a few great starting places. Indirect feedback doesn’t require much active interaction on your part. It’s more about observing. So scroll with intention. It might even be helpful to make small notes of some of the observations you make about the people you’re marketing to.
Getting direct feedback means you’ll have to be more direct. You have to ask your audience or customer base for feedback directly. This can be done in many ways. You can do a traditional survey for users to fill out. You can even create a poll on Twitter. If you have a Discord server centered around your product, you could use this as a place for customer feedback as well. The key here is specifically asking users about how they feel about your product.
Take a moment to think about your favorite developer tools. What makes them so great? As with Netlify, a key to building a great product is user feedback. Taking your users’ thoughts and feelings into consideration can make your product stand out in the crowd.
Be sure to give Matt’s full interview a listen for more insights into Netlify’s product journey.