Why Your Feedback Matters

We’ve been running a promotion to solicit feedback about Teqlo for about 6 weeks. This isn’t one of those feel-good-we-want-to-look-like-we-care-about-our-users things, we actually really need more eyes looking at what we are building. Here’s a real example from a meeting I had yesterday over at Laszlo Systems.

I was demoing the start page function and explaining how things work in the back end. I used the task list to Google Calendar as an example, here’s what that widget looks like in day view.

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I added an item from the task list widget and explained how that component was actually communicating with the Google server and adding the calendar item on the back end before updating the widget UI. Someone in the room made a comment about then clicking the “update” button to refresh the widget. Actually, that “update” button opens an edit function to “update” the calendar item, the widget itself automatically refreshes whenever the server changes.

I stopped and said “you know, I never would have imagined that someone would think that update in a calendar means synchronize instead of edit, but you’re right and we need to change that button text to ‘edit entry’.” My point of view was informed by having an understanding about how the backend works, and quite honestly that is one assumption I should never make. We also need to continually improve the user experience by making it not only obvious but also providing a tool tip for everything so even when it’s not obvious it is explained.

It was an abject lesson in why we need to constantly test and poll users by watching them and talking with them instead of just making assumptions about how things look and are perceived. If I hadn’t been sitting in a room with someone who had never seen our stuff before I would not have learned how one simple word change can make the difference between something that works versus something that confuses.

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Great Design – PBwiki

While I think pretty highly of the entire PBwiki as a whole, there’s one feature I want to point out that is a great example of someone thinking about how an actual customer will use a feature and then making it work so that it fits the way they work.

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When I copy/paste a URL from my browser window I copy the entire url including “http://”. Some systems parse out the “http://” because they support other protocols, but they then require the user to only paste in the URL minus the protocol… in other words, they want “www.teqlo.com” while “http://www.teqlo.com” will create an error condition.

PBwiki handles this nicely by letting me paste the entire URL string into the text box, at which point the dialog box code kicks in and strips out the protocol part (“http://”) automatically. It’s really a small thing and certainly not a complex feature to code, but it reflects an appreciation for making a system work the way an actual user will want it to work. Culturally, this is one of the more challenging aspects of building a software service or product and here PBwiki has done a commendable job.

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