Measure Twice, Cut Once: Maribel Lopez on User-Driven Apps

Last week we shared the first of a two-part interview with Maribel Lopez, Founder of Lopez Research. In the second half of our conversation, we talked app dev and discussed the importance of user feedback in guiding your mobile strategy.

You recently spoke to CITEworld about the value of gathering user feedback in the enterprise to determine how employees really feel about an app. How companies can effectively gather qualitative feedback and put it to use?

The first step is to gather feedback before you go through the process of rolling out an app. This might seem obvious, but, in fact, many companies miss this crucial step. You need to know whether there is real demand for the features you plan to build into an app before you make the investment in development. The more you know before you get started, the better the odds that employees will be eager to engage with the mobile apps you provide.

The second step is to make sure you have in-app analytics to automatically gather feedback showing whether or not users are taking advantage of certain features in an app and if they’re using it at all.

A third step that can be really effective is to put a feedback mechanism in the app itself. We see this often with consumer apps like Uber, which pushes users to give ratings every time they take a ride. In an enterprise setting, it probably won’t make sense to have users give feedback every time they use an app, but a few times can certainly make an impact. In big companies, it’s often very difficult for employees to even figure out how to give feedback to IT. If they have to leave the app, the odds quickly drop that they’ll bother to find a way to give a response, whether through a company wiki, in-person or through some other other mechanism.

In a recent blog post you talked about the common pitfalls of building too many features too slowly into an app. Can you share some wisdom about the best ways to figure out which features matter and which don’t?

In an ideal world, it would be possible to just ask users which features they need, but in the real world that doesn’t tend to happen.

You have to figure out the number one thing that is most critical, that users will want to be able to do very quickly in perhaps two clicks. If you start there and then gather user feedback as we just discussed, then the next most important features should quickly become clear.

Say, for example, you want to create an app for employees to do their expenses. The first iteration might just allow users to log expenses. Later you might add push notifications to remind users to submit their expenses on time or let them know when they’ve been reimbursed and so on.

Whether you’re building a single-purpose “micro-app” or layering on the next five to 10 features, you should ask yourself: what is the expected return on investment, and how does this map back to priority business goals? By aligning these two things, you’re likely to hit the mark more times than you miss. For businesses that are growing from the first five core apps to the next 100, figuring out what really makes sense is extremely important.

About Maribel Lopez: Maribel is the Founder and Principal of Lopez Research, a market research and strategy firm specializing in IT and communications technologies. Previously she was an analyst with Forrester Research for ten years, most recently as Vice President of the tech industry strategies group.

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  1. “what is the expected return on investment, and how does this map back to priority business goals?”
    In a perfect world developers would have as much time as they need to create the perfect app that gives users every functionality they could ever need. But we don’t live in a perfect world and most developers have to work under incredible deadlines. What can you build fastest? What functionality can serve the most users? What’s going to be the hardest piece of the puzzle?


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