Are you drowning in feature requests from customers? How do you prioritize new features, fix bugs, and develop new products? For fast-growing startups, these are hot questions.
In this article, I’ll give you insights into how Crazy Egg approaches these issues and pointers on how to focus on the things that will bring impact to your product.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a startup or Fortune 500 company, winning projects always start with a process.
“If you don’t improve your core product, existing customers will start looking elsewhere.”
As your company grows from hundreds to thousands of people, your customers are going to want more of what you do. But it’s not always easy to prioritize their requests. Do you improve your core product? Build new features?
At Crazy Egg, we’ve had to balance working on improvements to our core heatmap product while also developing new features that customers have been asking for. Plus, if we don’t develop new features, the core product might not offer prospective customers enough value to try Crazy Egg.
Let’s look at some ways you can provide value to current customers, which will also get you more customers.
Crazy Egg is a tight-knit team of ten people. Like anywhere, deciding on what to prioritize is difficult.
We know that we can only work on what we think will bring value to our customers. If a project doesn’t pan out, then our work for the past weeks or months turns into a huge waste of time.
When looking into the nature of decision-making and prioritization of companies, there are three common pitfalls:
Are you working on things that people will actually use? What are you doing to make sure you’re building something that people really want?
Think about why you’re building your feature and what problems it solves.
Are you trying to cater your product to everyone instead of focusing on a specific audience? Are you adding things for the sake of releasing something new?
Think about who you’re building for.
Do people need to develop tutorials on how something works? Have you thought about how many customer support requests you’ll get for the feature you’re working on?
Think about the time it takes for you to educate your customers on your product.
Here’s my point.
If you take action on every feature request, you’ll work yourself into a bust. You’ll be just like Homer Simpson, who designed an $82,000 car that put his brother’s company out of business. Why? He made a car that had everything but didn’t appeal to anyone.
“Don’t create a product that costs too much to develop and has way too many bells and whistles.”
Our team gets a steady stream of feature ideas from emails, tweets, direct messages, and phone calls. But we manage to cut through the noise and prioritize what matters most.
How? By using a three-step process that keeps us sane. Check it out.
Talk to your customers early and often. This can range from pricing interviews, usability tests, direct emails with users, or support tickets. Your goal is to uncover:
Now let’s unpack this.
An easy way to measure customer headaches is to start looking at support issues. What’s trending? Which areas of your product receives the most questions? Next, measure the impact that these issues have on your business.
For example, let’s say you get tons of emails about both your onboarding process and the last feature you released. You can look at this through two different lenses:
Now look into your business and weigh the impact:
Next step? Consult your business strategy and decide whether you should prioritize acquisition or customer retention.
For example, if you’re a young startup, maybe you should focus on acquisition first, then emphasize onboarding later.
Nothing beats a one-on-one conversation with a customer. At Crazy Egg, we iterate on old features and develop amazing new ones for our customers based on preset criteria.
For instance, during one development cycle, our team brainstormed five new features to design and build. With such a small team, we don’t have the resources to develop so many ideas, let alone put them out into the market.
So our goal was to narrow down those five ideas to one. And we did this by recruiting 10 customers for a 45-minute phone call that dove into questions that pinpointed what they really value.
But how do you frame a conversation between you and your customer?
Create a set of low-fidelity mockups of features and show them to the customer.
You’re not showing a perfect design of the feature, so it doesn’t have to be fully fleshed out. But be sure to show them how much they’ll benefit from it. Then, once you’ve walked them through what the feature can do for them, gauge their willingness-to-pay.
Ask “What’s the benefit to you?” or “If you had to put a dollar amount on that benefit, what would it be? Why is that?”
Some customers will find it hard to nail down an actual number. This is normal, stay persistent and ask the customer to provide their best guess. The most important step is to follow-up with the question “Why?”
Ask the Relative Preference Question: “Out of these features, which one is the most important and least important to you? Why?”
This will get to the heart of what’s valuable to a customer and save you time from overthinking.
A feature is often rated on a spectrum from “completely useless” to “will disrupt entire category.”
However, innovative products are not one-dimensional. Instead, think of products as multi-dimensional using a 2×2 matrix, like the one below.
On the x-axis, rate a proposed feature from “easy to develop to not easy to develop.”
On the y-axis, rate a proposed feature idea from “important to user to not important to user.”
Always focus on the area where it’s important to your user and easy to develop.
Prioritizing projects is one of the most critical jobs of any product team. It’s also the trickiest and riskiest. Because bad calls can quickly destroy a startup. Where do these lousy decisions come from?
In too many cases, the right data was not gathered, the criteria was not clearly outlined, or the technical feasibility and perceived value were not accurately weighed.
Try this methodology the next time you prioritize ideas. Your planning will improve, you’ll produce more relevant features, and you’ll bring things to market that make a genuine impact.
Jessica Tiao is a UX designer at Crazy Egg. She spends her time working with the product and engineering teams to solve design problems. When she’s not designing, she’s wandering around San Francisco.