How To Create Business Software People Love And Use
In a blog post “4 Ways to Build Business Software Users Actually Love,” writer Justin Rosenstein reminds developers that the people who use their software are the employees who sit at their desks all day at work, 9-5 or 10-10. These people use software to help solve their daily departmental or corporate issues, and for them, badly designed software “isn’t just time-wasting; it’s soul-sucking.”
It’s true – software that fails to meet real, daily business needs is:
Great software begins with designing for real people and real problems. When your software fails to meet a daily need, it will flop – every time. As all corporate employees know, there’s nothing worse than using software day in, day out that is not complex enough to handle your data, cannot perform the functions you need it to perform, or presents frustrating user issues, whether for the individual or the team using the product. It makes a person want to smack the computer screen in utter anger.
The last thing a developer wants is to create software that doesn’t fit the bill. So how do you create software that people love and want?
The goal: life transformation
A developer’s goal has to be to change the way the target user goes about their daily life – in a good way. For a developer creating business software, this means understanding the daily workplace, its nuances, and its needs.
Seth Godin is a programmer, blogger, and speaker who has written extensively about how to develop outstanding software that goes against the grain. In his 2010 Business of Software talk entitled “Are you a linchpin?”, Seth Godin said that people are looking for software that is going to transform the way they live, interact, work, and play. He gave some inspiring words on software creation. “We want to believe that your software is going to transform the way we do our jobs,” he said.
Software companies, he says, have to be led by tribal leaders who make it their mission to teach people about why their software is not boring, and to connect it with people’s daily lives in a way that highlights its power to change and transform daily tasks.
What principles go into creating software businesses will actually use?
Let’s say Joe Schmo is your target customer. Before you can transform Joe Schmo’s life, you have to understand Joe Schmo’s world. Does he even need the product you want to produce? How will you convince him his world needs to be transformed? Is he aware of the problem you think you’re solving for?
It’s important to:
Know your target customer and their issues. Why are you creating this product? You need a clear problem to solve and a clear person you’re solving for. Otherwise, your potential customers will be confused about why they even need this product.
Meet the need in a new way. Lots of software solves the same problems. Not every software tackles the problems in the same way. That’s why new software can continue to spring into the marketplace – because there’s always better ways to solve people’s daily problems. Find a way no one has tried yet.
Talk to the people who will be using your software. Once the software is decently developed, you can invite valuable feedback from potential users. Writer Austin Gunter, in an article on building software users want, recommends sending out an email to potential customers with 8-10 questions that will help you understand the user’s perspective on your software. The people you contact will be the type of person who might find your software useful. You can allow them to “beta test” your product, and ask for feedback in areas like “how hard was it to use my product,” “did the product meet your expectations,” and “what did you hate the most? What did you like the most?” Perhaps most important: “would you pay x for this?” or “would you recommend this to your friends?”
Creating desire for your product
Once you have a product people need, you have to create desire. In his talk to the Business on Software audience, Seth provided four questions that help software companies market their software – but I think the questions are relevant even prior to the marketing. Ask these questions before, during, and after development.
- Who is going to decide to buy the product, and can I reach them?
- Will this person talk about the product with their peers?
- Can I keep talking to the influencers? Seth says it’s like dating – you have to keep making connections over and over again until you sell.
- Will they actually pay for it?
Once you’ve established a transformative product, given a great deal of time and thought to the way this product will actually work on a daily basis in the workplace, and ensured that your product works, you have to communicate all this to the people who will buy it. If you can reach your target customer and get that customer on board, you’re golden.
Of course, that’s every software companies goal – and it’s easier said than done. But by developing with the end goal of changing the business person’s life, you start out right. By tackling real world problems, you have the potential to introduce businesses to a product that will improve their work day, boost their productivity, and better their business. They’ll thank you for that.
Brooke McDonald is a writer and blogger in Minneapolis interested in the way great software products enable businesses to be all-around better at what they do. She works with clients such as business budgeting software company MyDeptPlan to help them put outstanding products into the hands of the exactly right customers whose lives will be transformed by them.