Feedback: a Product Story, in 6 Acts
We really do practice what we preach at ZURB. We're not kidding about the importance of feedback, and while we were developing Verify we went through 6 different rounds of feedback (the last of which is continuously ongoing). That doesn't mean we built the product, and then shopped it around 6 different times - we knocked out 5 of those rounds of feedback before Verify's public release:
Round 1: Internal Feedback on Sketches
Bryan solicited feedback on Verify based on some sketches he roughed out to illustrate the concept. He spoke to specific team members to get targeted, actionable feedback, which we used to create some more detailed sketches and mockups. This also got everyone on the team invested and excited about the idea.
Round 2: Road Show!
With workflow sketches, low-fi wireframes and mockups we went on a road show, showing the concept to 10 of ZURB's closest friends and customers. We demoed with static screens using paper or Powerpoint and got some great feedback on what our customers were looking for, what resonated with them, and where we could best focus our efforts.
Round 3: DEMO2010 Conference
With feedback from our friends and colleagues under our belt, it was time to show it off. Rather than a splashy demo we opted to show it at DEMO2010, where we couldn't use a computer. At all. Instead, we talked about the value and how it works, while Dmitry played Dylan to our series of sketches. We got great feedback from potential users, and investors who recommended it to their startups.
Round 4: Using Verify for Client Projects
Before we had other people using the app, we put it through it's paces ourselves by running tests for client projects. This helped us see not only the value more clearly for ourselves, but was also a talking point in future demos to illustrate not only how the tool works, but what it makes possible (early concept testing).
Round 5: Private Release
After we'd shown it off, gotten feedback, and used it ourselves it was time to roll it out...privately. We released Verify to a few hundred, and then a thousand, users over a period of about a month. This helped us identify not only operational concerns like load and scaling, but also got us tons of great feedback from users excited to be part of a private release.
Round 6: Public Release
In November we released Verify to the public. Since then we've been receiving feedback from customers, our friends and colleagues, and from the team.
Always Be Collecting Feedback
It may not have quite the ring of Glengarry Glen Ross, but we should always be collecting feedback, and not just once we've built the product. We collected feedback for Verify using sketches, ideas, whiteboards, mockups and static prototype code, not to mention the actual app.
The result of all this feedback is a more motivated, better informed team as well as a much better product. Verify wouldn't be half the app it is today without feedback, and our plans for it's future would be hazy and ill-supported at best. Design isn't about always being reactive, but it is about knowing as much as you can about your customers and their needs. Let them tell you!