[disclaimer: this post is related to the experiences I have at my job at www.glubble.com]
The most difficult thing to grasp when you are trying to build a consumer or mainstream service on the web is the notion that everyone is different. It is something we are struggling with all the time. As a developer you want to make things as simple as possible. The First Use experience needs to be near perfect. A user needs a good reason to invest effort in incorporating your service into his daily habits. It’s a question rarely addressed correctly by early adopters.
The problem is that every user is different. You can implement things in so many different ways, and there are so many different pro’s and con’s for each solution. You can ask users, but be ready for many different opinions. Glubble currently has users in 125 different countries in the world. That is a strength but also a complication. So how can you make this First Use experience good for all? There isn’t a simple solution for this.
We build and released a first version last year and started a continuous dialogue with our users. They gave us a lot of feedback, suggestions for improvement and it helped us improve the service immensely. This year we have released a complete new service, Glubble for Families, and the whole process repeats itself.
Our aim is to get the First Use experience right. Feedback is already coming in from our early adopter users (yes, they exist in consumer services!). Many are happy with the tools we provide to parents to support heir children discover the web. The idea of being able to set up a private social network for families seems appealing to them.
But we also are getting feedback that things we have greatly simplified aren’t as obvious or simple as we hoped for. Interestingly enough this often concerns things we as a team have thought about and talked about many times. We’ve seen some of our users struggle with it in the first release, and we used their feedback to improve things in upcoming releases. It has taught us that it is better to spent time field-testing assumptions than spending time thinking out the best possible solution.
No matter what solution you think of, there is always someone that wants it differently or doesn’t find it as intuitive as we aimed for. That is what makes First Use so incredibly important and yet so difficult. And remember, we aren’t talking about the early adopter crowd you will find around this blog. Many of our users are families, parents with children. Not looking for a technical solution, but for a way to support their children discovering the web. Or to have a good time online with the family. Each family has its own values, feelings about what is right or wrong, what is good for a child and what is not, what is safe and what’s not.
The most important thing we realized is that we can’t deliver the best experience, unless we let the user take control of that experience. It isn’t up to us to decide what is best for parents or their children. We could pretend to be experts, or hire experts to do the work for us, as some competitors seem to do. But that doesn’t work. In the end, parents are the experts.
First Use has taught us to enable parents to take control of the experience. We let them decide what is best and we try to provide them convenient controls to accomplish their goals. We have taken this approach a step further now and are asking users active feedback to help us design new or improve existing functionality. It’s amazing to see the creativity and the input users are willing to give when you welcome their input. In our upcoming release parents and children will find improvements designed by our own users. A big step towards further customer engagement and a much improved First Use experience!