A new product should make people happy. After all, we are in the startup business to impact people's lives for the better. We look for opportunities in the market to provide solutions, fill a niche, and enhance the lives of everyday people. One of the key metrics of a successful product is the happiness factor–are users utilizing, benefitting, and most importantly enjoying the product you put out.
An online study conducted by Change Sciences monitored the emotions of 8,000 people after they interacted with the top 250 websites in e-commerce, healthcare, travel, entertainment, and banking–in an effort to determine whether it’s possible to create happiness by design.
Their answer? In short, yes.
But the deeper insight is much more complex.
Unfortunately, no one has invented a sure-fire design that guarantees a product will deliver happiness to its users, as happiness in and of itself is subjective, dynamic, and forever changing with the tides of time. Happiness is often a cosmic collaboration of a multitude of things, creating a positive experience for those who encounter it. It is a delicate balance. A gentle offering of small delights and higher purpose. And as someone who knows the industry like the back of my hand, I have figured out some simple ways to achieve all of this.
As the founder of Humbleteam, a design agency that specializes in helping startups and enterprises design products with high success, I have seen my fair share of classic startup mistakes and error products attempting to exceed the happiness metric for their target audience. Working with over 50 startups, I have had time to analyze what precisely drives happiness in product designs and what falls short.
After taking the time to distill this information into actionable steps, I am excited to share my findings with you in the hopes that startups continue to pursue a path of progress, innovations, and most of all, happiness.
You might think that you can determine if your users are happy by taking in an overview perspective of your product, maybe they are using it regularly or they have not submitted any formal complaints–but the key here is to never assume anything! How do you know if your audience is happy unless you ask them directly?
Acquiring direct customer feedback will not only provide a more direct throughline from the product to the happiness metric, but it will also make your life so much easier when you ask yourself big questions like, what’s our next step?
To best understand what makes your users happy, establishing a strong channel of communication is the top priority. In our modern digital world, sending out an email is just not as effective as it used to be. People associate emails with work and are resentful to deal with them outside working hours. Utilizing a text messenger such as WhatsApp is casual, lightweight, and fast. Forms of communication like this tend to be seen as friendlier and are better known to receive direct feedback than traditional email blasts.
Once you have opened that trusted communication channel, continuing the conversation with customers who are willing to have a dialogue with you is a two-fold component. And how do you open a line of communication and retain those willing to continue to provide feedback? You provide them with a personal experience and make it easy for them to engage.
What is the simplest and most effective way to give a personal feedback experience? If you are the founder of your startup, you get on the phone and you communicate with your customers directly. You’d be amazed at how much people appreciate the personal touch of speaking directly to the person who created the product. This builds trust, opens a more long-lasting line of communication, and allows you to get the most accurate feedback possible.
When using a casual communication channel like WhatsApp, get the most out of your interaction by sending screenshots of products, deep-diving into features, and encouraging the customers to chat in detail about their experiences. Because texting is an instant form of communication, you can receive replies within hours, maybe even minutes instead of days as with emailing.
Discord has quickly become a favorite form of fast communication between companies and their customers, especially if you have a B2C product, it is a fantastic way to receive easy feedback in a centralized space.
Remember to keep your audience in mind when choosing the modality of communication. If your target audience is 50+ years old and likely not the most advanced when it comes to the newest form of communications, a space like Discord would not be the best channel to use. But for a group of gamers between the ages of 18-35 years, it could be perfect.
Your messenger contacts and the feedback you receive from them are not 100% representative of your target market as a whole. Be mindful that these conversations are only a slice of the pie and can influence decisions rather than create concrete evidence. If the consensus with the customers you talk to on WhatsApp is that your product has a feature that is difficult to understand, then likely that is an accurate representation of your broader customer experience, without going into the detailed specifics.
It may be tempting to focus your efforts on launching new features for testing that have been scrutinized and agonized over as the next “perfect” version of your product. But keep in mind that in doing that you miss many opportunities to test and receive feedback in incremental but incredibly useful ways.
The tendency is to create a production process of releasing new versions or testing features that encompass all feedback, is often a bit slower to roll out, and attempts to completely improve on the original. Reset this thought process. Instead, adopt a low-cost and high-impact testing process, and couple that with a maximum time to market of 14 days. If you were once only putting out new features every month, you have now effectively doubled your feedback, your insights, and your ability to adapt and grow as a product.
Many small steps can put you on a more successful trajectory than one calculated giant leap. Happiness isn’t a formula, as we now know, and so providing as many opportunities for your product to provide small delights and higher purpose, gives you more chances to land on the perfect combination that solidifies your customer's true happiness.
I cannot encourage enough just how important maintaining a short deadline is when testing your products. Sticking to deadlines that are less than three weeks (and optimally two weeks) effectively doubles your production rate for the year. You are working in a sprint to acquire the most amount of information in the shortest amount of time, and to do that you have to amp up your production rates and focus on the features that matter.
These aggressive deadlines help you to filter out the need-to-have from the nice-to-have features. Specificity is a powerful tool. When you are specific and focus on the need-to-have aspects of your product, you have more direct insights into the type of feedback you need from your customers. While it might be nice to get an overall impression of your logo, understanding if the payment option within your design is causing a pain-point for your users and preventing them from following through with transactions, is a need-to-know feature.
By limiting your time to market deadline, you prevent yourself from having too much downtime to mull over unnecessary details and get distracted by less critical aspects of your product. A tight schedule keeps you focused and driven, and your insights at the end of your testing sprints will provide a wealth of knowledge to help you successfully move forward along your startup's roadmap.
Another helpful tip to keep in mind is to avoid cognitive overload when it comes to considering your customer's experience with your product. If your product elicits this cognitive overload response the customer will be spending too much time processing the product to take in the core purpose.
Because the first impressions of your product will be 94% design-related, do not change up the minute details of your design every single time that you offer a new feature and trial experiment. Leave those aspects for when you have solidified your most realized product and you are ready to launch the final version. The aim in these stages is customer feedback and emotional impact, not perfect product design.
People will often remember negative experiences over positive ones. So if they feel inauthenticity from your product, or more importantly from the way that you receive feedback about the product, their journey will likely not change and that will be the anchor you’ll have to fight against for the rest of your process. Customer service can change everything (for better or worse) about a user experience.
Don’t forget to keep things simple. Hick’s law states that the more complexity and options you present your users with, the longer it’ll take them to reach a decision. This feels like common sense but is often neglected to add “more” to a product all at once. People aren’t obligated to stick with your product. Overload them with too much, and they might find it better to move on. While you are aiming to keep testing on a quick turnaround, don’t forget to be efficient, clear, and concise. Sticking to a low-cost and high-impact feature helps avoid this dilemma.
In an ideal world, every product that aims to fill a need in the market would bring happiness to its users if that product is well crafted and intentional. But the truth is that even if we try our hardest to produce a product with practical features, high functionality, and unique design, we still might not hit the nail on the head when it comes to designing customer happiness.
The best way for us to avoid any pitfalls when it comes to customer happiness is to talk to people. Connecting with your users, and learning more about your target market is the best insight you can find to help you continue to design products that bring that perfect combination of small delights and higher purpose. Because the more you connect with your customers, the more they will connect with your product and the more happiness they will feel.
Happiness of every kind begins with a connection. We thrive in community, we want to feel seen and be heard, and we want the things we invest in to reflect those values. The more you understand how your product can influence these aspects of human happiness, the more likely you will be able to continue to evolve your product to hit the mark and generate long-lasting, happy customers.