Applications and websites are often developed around the needs and beliefs of internal company employees. These ‘business requirements’ are based on internal employees’ belief of what their customers want to see and do - however the customers might have different needs and wants the internal employees recognize. The challenge is to fully understand the real end user and what they would like.
There are many tools to help understand the target customer better. One of the best tools that we utilize is to literally go and ask the customers through a series of interviews and surveys specially designed to capture important information that might have been missed by the internal business units. Key customers from different demographics are selected and interviewed while a larger section of the customer based is surveyed. The surveys typically include findings from the interview process as a means to validate important new findings.
Another tool that we utilize is web / application analytics tools such as the free Google Analytics. These tools automatically collect a lot of information that even the customer might not be aware of such as screen resolution, time spent on the site or even on individual pages, conversion rates on things like email campaigns, onsite behavior from paid search referrals and much more. You can even establish a funnel process (like a checkout process of required steps) that you would like the customers to flow through and see how well people made it through the process and which pages they exited the process.
Analytics packages such as Google Analytics even support overlays which allow you to see your site through the eyes of the analytics package. The overlay will add key metrics overtop of the hyperlinks of the site so you can see the number of clicks and the percentage of clicks on certain links which lets you see how popular different content is.
There are even now analytics packages that allow you to see analytics of installed applications such as a new offering from PreEmptive Solutions that hooks into the new Windows Phone 7 installed applications. These types of analytics packages let you see how your installed application is being used, which has really never been an option in the past. You can see how often certain features are used and graph out the usage over time. If you are developing a mobile application that is sold globally the analytics package even shows you demographic-based usage information where in the past it was a launch and forget situation.
There are many more tools that we utilize in trying to fully understand the customer needs and how effective the current offerings are for them and what could be improved. It is important to fully understand the customer and how your offerings meet those needs. With all of these data rich tools it’s not difficult to understand your effectiveness and improve on it.