Why We Use User Feedback As The Main Driver Of Product Decisions

In my previous post I talked how my mindset for processing user feedback changed after launching a SaaS product as a single founder. In this post I’d like to talk about the process I developed for interacting with users and using feedback to guide product decisions.

It might seem controversial (or not), but I’d claim that user feedback rather than data should be your main source for understanding how to improve your product.

I’ve worked on teams and seen many companies in which analytics data is the main driver for product decisions. The problem with this approach is that analytics frame product issues from the perspective of the developers / business, instead of the perspective of the user / customer.

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Writing on product management and user experience design

It’s been over 4 years since I published my last article on this blog, a post-mortem of my previous startup which was winding down at the time.

Since then I’ve been working on growing Martial Arts on Rails, a SaaS product which provides online management software for gyms and martial arts schools. As a single founder this time, I took much more (= all) responsibility with regards to user / customer interaction and managing the product lifecycle than I ever did previously as the technical lead at several companies.

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There are no x10 developers, but there are certainly 1/10 ones

I keep seeing the term “x10 developer” pop up recently, and I think it’s misleading and leads to a rock-star / primadonna culture that benefits no one.

“x10 developers” are, in fact, proficient developers, who are experienced with their stack and problem domain. Once you get to this point, you can still find room to optimize – some people are inherently more focused or talented and you can always gain more experience, but the difference between developers who are proficient at what they do will never be a x10 multiplier – it will be closer to a variation of 30-40% in productivity. In some extreme cases (super experienced, focused, and naturally gifted), you might even reach x2 times productivity over a baseline proficient developer (I’ve seen it in action).

On the other hand, you have developers who are simply not proficient. They either have no aptitude for programming at all, or are so inexperienced that progress is very slow as they are learning everything as they go. Those are the “1/10 developers” and they make proficient developers (i.e, professionals) seem like x10 developers.
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The Real Cost of Software Development

In a previous lifetime (until about 3 years ago), I was working at a software development firm as part of a small webdev-shop team of 3. Our focus was building MVPs for aspiring entrepreneurs, file guiding them through specifications, user-experience, product decisions and marketing (we called it “concept-to-launch”).

Coming across a heated discussion a couple of days ago on Hackernews over an article titled “30 pounds in 30 days”, took me back to the time we were educating clients on the cost of software development. I would like to offer my perspective on outsourcing, cultural difference and the overall cost of outsourcing software product development.

(For the short summary, skip to the TL;DR below)

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Developers vs. Bigcorp

With all the rage recently on Twitter’s changes to their API and how it affects developers and their apps who rely on it, it’s easy to forget that Twitter is hardly the first major tech company to take such an approach to lifeblood of its ecosystem.

Yes, most of the large tech companies today are taking a hardline approach when dealing with developers who use their platform, treating them with entitlement as they hand down “our-way-or-the-highway” rules and regulations that leave little recourse when things go wrong.

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