Customer validation is a primary step in developing any product, and at Adobe it’s a step we take rather seriously — from the first version of Adobe Illustrator to now, in a major way, with new products like Adobe XD. Here are a few best practices we’ve learned to follow as we strive to develop market-leading products for our customers:
1. Start with specific goals
Being strategic about what you want to understand and from whom can help you get the most valuable customer feedback. To identify specific goals, we first brainstorm about the types of challenges our audience might face. We can then define the potential problems and form hypotheses. Then we identify the assumptions we are making and choose a method to help us test our hypotheses and assumptions.
Before we started going to customers with the beta for layers — a feature in Adobe XD — we came up with a couple of hypotheses about the issues they may face. For example, what if the customer couldn’t even find the layer panel? Understanding the insights you want to gain helps focus the feedback and the resulting action.
2. Reach out to the right audience
When reaching out for customer validation, make sure the people testing the product features are the ones who will be using it on a day-to-day basis. Be specific. The better your testers know the job that needs to be done, the better the feedback they’ll be able to give you. We gather feedback from a variety of different levels to keep in touch with a good cross-section of users:
Internal users offer our earliest feedback. Whenever we design something new or prototype an idea, we test it out first with our own internal Adobe design teams. For us, it’s a great way to get some quick, honest feedback.
Building a pre-release community is a great way to gather early feedback from a larger, more diverse group. We have about 1,000 people from a mix of agency, enterprise, education, and freelance designers that comprise our pre-release community for Adobe XD. Every two weeks, this community of users receives a new beta with features that aren’t yet available to the public. A private forum keeps a conversation going while the features are being tested.
Customer Advisory Board
A customer advisory board (CAB) is a subset of the pre-release community. CAB members are active on the forums and are constantly using the product. If we have a specific question, we reach out to CAB member, and can be pretty confident that we’ll get good feedback.
When we are ready for feedback on the next level of development, we take our product on the road to businesses that we’ve developed a relationship with. A demo and a quick chat allow us to get additional feedback.
Forums and Feedback Sites
Actively participating in online forums and incorporating feedback tools such as UserVoice, allows us to respond to user suggestions and frustrations, and validates customer insights. Customers will learn that sharing feedback in this way is effective, and the conversations and issues discussed will become more valuable to our development process. We work hard to keep connected to our user community at large with these tools.
Interacting with customers at trade shows and user conferences is a great chance for us to get one-on-one insights from a really broad cross-section of customers. For example, every year our product teams run labs and demos at MAX and then watch people try out features for the first time.
3. Show what you’re doing better
Not surprisingly, feedback is most electric when it’s in response to something no one has seen before. If you’re building a feature that already exists in other apps, the trick is to show how you’re doing it better. With layers in Adobe XD, for example, our layer panel is faster, the performance level is higher, and the workflows are more streamlined. Highlighting these details get users hooked and interested in telling you what they like and what could be better.
The purpose of user feedback is to provide tools that simplify and automate what the user needs to accomplish and to do it in the most intuitive way possible. Remember, the main goal with gathering customer input is to get feedback that is actionable. The best way to do this is to know what you are looking for — while still being open to unexpected issues, reach out to many different types of users at several levels, and engage them with new features and ideas. To provide real solutions, you need to understand where the real problems are.