Why We Need to Treat Our Product Like a Relationship

[vc_column_text pb_margin_bottom="no" pb_border_bottom="no" width="1/1" el_position="first last"] Have you ever been asked out on a date by someone who's in the ‘just friends’ category?

It can be uncomfortable, awkward and sometimes frustrating, right?

Well, it turns out we're doing this with the technology products we design everyday.

At the end of the day successful product design and development is about building a meaningful long term relationship with your user.

It's about earning incremental trust one interaction at a time. 

Over the lifecycle of your product there will be 100s of opportunities to do this - our job is to make each one of them count.

The key is in the courting.

Consider Facebook.

Over the years Facebook has done a great job of building incremental trust with us. From providing a simple way to send our friends a request to connect, through to building a personalized slideshow highlighting the year in pictures.

Let's think about this for minute.

Imagine on that first day after signing up Facebook magically posted a slideshow with several dozen pictures of you - how would that make you feel? Keep in mind you wouldn't have the context of privacy that they've established over the past several years...  The thought “hey I didn’t say you could do that” runs through my head.

But after being on the platform for 5 years and having hundreds of thousands of micro-transactions I am okay with it because Facebook has worked hard at building that relationship and earning my trust.

I don’t want your product to ask me to marry it before we’ve gone on our first date.

Building trust is about micro-transactions.

How can you seamlessly add a little slice of value to your users when they first engage with your product or feature?

These slices can be microscopic and seemingly unnoticeable.

But don't be fooled, despite their insignificance they have huge impact to the long term relationship you are building with your users.

If you miss on building incremental trust in these first micro-transactions your users won’t stick around long enough to fall in love with that feature you know will be a key differentiator.

Your job in building product is to facilitate an experience where trust and value incrementally grows one successive interaction after another.

Back to Facebook.  

Thinking back to that first micro-transaction with Facebook... I was seeing my friends updates and simply had to click “like” to engage. It was so easy and comfortable, a natural next step. And with that data they began curating my news feed which built more trust, and so I returned to engage more frequently.

Just like with our interpersonal relationships, product relationships take time, effort, and communication. Just because a feature is small and easy to use means it will build trust with your target audience.

Here are 5 quick tips for digging into our audience to ensure we're building trust and adding value with each micro-transaction.

1. Understanding the Journey

Strive for an intimate understanding of where the user is in their journey when they are first experiencing your product. What are they trying to accomplish and how do they need to feel empowered?

Never stop this learning journey.

2. Identify 'journey enablers’

What does it look like to impart a sense of empowerment at each step in the user's experience? The team over at Hustle.Co have their audience dialled and understand this journey - each touchpoint through their site is meant to remind the visitor they are a part of the Hustle.Co tribe. I’ve heard several of my colleagues rave about the experience of browsing The Hustle for the first time and signing up for their newsletter (note that is two consecutively larger micro-transactions).

3. A/B testing and User Behaviour

Both quantitative and qualitative measures are important to understanding how your visitors are actually using a feature or experience on your site. Look at the engagement rate as well as how this controlled change impacts the user's experience as a whole.

Sometimes it helps to see where people are clicking and how they are moving through your site. You may realize that a piece of content or call to action you thought would be the key to your first date actually is getting swiped past at super speed.

Try another angle, test it with your users and analyze your improvement on building that incremental relationship.

4. Analytics

Analytics can help you visualize and understand the flow of users through your funnel. You know that for your product to ultimately have been a success in adding value a user needs to travel from one end to the other.

Through each attempt at building that relationship through micro-interactions and engagements keep an eye on how users are progressing through your funnel and use this as a north star to ensure that progress is actually being made.

5. Talk to Your User

If you start doing one thing today, do this. This is the golden rule and applies regardless of whether you're 50% of a 2 person garage startup or a 20,000 employee tech giant.

There is no excuse except for our own courage to step out of our comfort zone and have these conversations.

  • Sit in a Starbucks and find someone you think may be a fit - say hi and start a conversation.
  • Go to where your audience lives. Whatever that domain, spend time there observing the environment and having conversations. Our team at BuildDirect got out of the office and spent a half day at the Vancouver Home and Garden show.
  • Run user tests, experiments and interviews - anytime & anywhere. When I was leading my first product launch I was attended a product management event with my laptop interviewing and running live demos with any many attendees as possible.

Lead with Empathy

Great relationships, and therefore great products are built on a deep and passionate understanding of our users. This understanding empowers us to empathize with the problems our users are facing and how our product is helping them solve this.

As product leaders this is a given.

My challenge to you is to take this thinking and leadership mindset into every micro-transaction your user will experience, regardless of how small and insignificant.

image: Mink Mingle

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