When it comes to feedback, we really do practice what we preach at ZURB. We continuously seek feedback from users of our products.
Case in point — our Notable customers were trying to do something the app wasn't designed to do. They were trying to control the feedback they got from their clients and teammates, but Notable doesn't allow people to do that. Everyone is treated the same. It doesn't matter if you're soliciting the feedback or giving it, the interactions don't change.
This was a problem we've had ourselves. After all, we get a lot of feedback from clients, teammates, and customers — some of which we solicit and some we don't. What we don't want is detailed, nitpick feedback when we present a new idea to a client. Likewise, we usually want very detailed feedback when we present hi-fi wireframes to a client. So we thought: wouldn't it be nice if we had an app that let us and others control what type of feedback we'd get?
Instead of shoehorning a new feature in Notable, we decided to make a brand-spanking new app. However, we tested the waters by building and launching Reel, our free online presentation app, first. Reel helped us figure out what was needed to make a presentation app work before we built the mother app, Influence.
In the beginning, our ideas were pretty raw and we still had a lot of cooking to do before Influence would be ready for public consumption. At this point, believe it or not, we didn't even call it Influence. The application's original name — Inspire.
That name stuck as we got scrappy with our Sharpies, busting out tons of sketches. Sketching allowed us to construct the backbone of the application — uploading a presentation, how you direct feedback, how many ways could someone solicit feedback, and how would feedback be collected. We went through dozens of sketches before we went into the front-end code.Sketch of the "upload" screen.
Like what we did with Verify, we skipped the hi-fi wireframes and visual design, jumping right into the front-end prototype. Things went a heck of a lot smoother for us on Influence because of the lessons we learned building Verify and Notable. Within 8 months, Influence actually started to take shape.The finished "upload" page.
With the first pass at the front-end and some work hooking up the back-end, we didn't waste any time and began doing tons of demo, soliciting feedback as early as possible on our new feedback app.
As we got closer and closer to finalizing our brand-spanking new app, we hit a minor roadblock. Our original name — Inspire — was already taken, lock, stock, and legal barrel. We couldn't use the name … at all. We didn't want to toss the baby out with the bath water, so we quickly ditched the name and came up with Influence.
Last month, we launched Influence in private release. Since then, we've been busy talking, emailing, and Skyping with a lot of early adopters who've been able to take the app for a spin. So far we've received some good feedback on how we can improve the application and we've been listening.
While Influence isn't available yet for widespread release, we've managed to get some love from the press, not to mention the thousands of tweets spreading the word.