Scale Your Business Without Decreasing Value For Your Users
At Blue Water, we often consult with our clients on how to scale their businesses in the digital world. With many SaaS (software as a service) tools, scalability is critical.
John Engates, CTO Rackspace, defines scalability as:
…the ability to either handle growing amounts of work in a graceful manner, or to be readily enlarged as demands increase.
For a brand to succeed, one needs to weigh the scaling of a business with meeting user’s needs. Without regularly testing shifts in your business model with actual users, you could make a devastating mistake. Balancing competing stakeholder interests (investors vs. users) can also be precarious. With many SaaS companies, investors demand returns, but often don’t fully understand the the complexities of user needs. That’s why proactively testing with users is so important: it arms a brand with the data needed to make sound business decisions.
Blue Water’s user experience team obsessively tests our work with users. This mitigates the risk associated with costly mistakes and ensures positive results for our clients and their customers. We prefer to test quickly, often, and iteratively, in lieu of lengthier lab-based usability studies (which tend to be costlier and slower).
Recently, one software package that we use for testing notified us of a shift in their business model. The shift would force us to either upgrade to a costly yearly plan, or face a major degradation in the quality of the product we use. This was strange; a company that specializes in user testing that is inexpensive, fast, and accessible, ironically didn’t evaluate how their agency clients might react to this change.
Needless to say, we were disappointed with the proposed change. And when we expressed our dissatisfaction, they initially responded by offering us a reduced subscription price. The pricing wasn’t the real problem, instead it was that our expectations as users, weren’t properly managed. We had become accustomed to a certain level of service and features, and having those features removed was a big surprise.
Fortunately, the testing partner was very receptive to our feedback, and quickly made a shift in their business model to meet our needs. This was great to hear, because red tape and operational inefficiency can often get in the way of making a fast shift to meet user needs.
The user testing example underscores the importance of getting real user feedback before making a potentially risky move. In this instance, the user testing software was widely adopted by UX professionals because it shattered the cost barrier and turn around time of usability testing. So when they downgraded their service, it was a perplexing move. Sometimes the desire to increase pricing comes at the expense of destroying an organization’s key brand value (in this case easy, inexpensive, and fast user testing). The testing company made the change to meet investors’ demands to scale their business up, but because they did not initially test this change with their users, the result could have ended up doing the opposite.
At Blue Water, we use data to keep gut instinct off the table, ensuring our work always bears positive outcomes for our clients. We’re thrilled that our favorite tool for fast, inexpensive, and useful user testing will remain in our toolbox, permanently.
This article was co-authored by Jay Selway, Creative Director and Jason Chong Lee, Ph.D, UX Lead.