User Feedback (R)evolution


We are always assessing how we do things around here, looking for ways to refine our development process. Over the last two years, we fundamentally shifted our approach to project management, adopting Agile development concepts and adapting them to our pre-existing commitment to user-centered design. This effort has resulted in more rapid product cycles, allowing us to quickly produce a small set of features that meet basic user needs, get feedback on real use of the new features, and act swiftly on the feedback to develop the next set of user-prioritized functionality.

During this shift, we had an opportunity to rethink the channels we use to gather feedback. While our regular practices of usability studies, focus groups, interviews and surveys are essential to successful software design and will continue to be a central part of our development process, they take time and can be distant from users' daily tasks.

To respond to the needs of our clients, we need methods that rapidly gather feedback on the success of a new release and the specific functionality that needs to be worked on. Users must have the ability to give us direct feedback on new features from within the context of performing tasks. To this end, we implemented dual-purpose “New Feature” alerts introducing the new “Public Access” functionality in CommonView. These alerts served to both inform users about the new feature and solicit feedback on the feature with a link to a short survey.

The results gathered proved valuable for helping us quickly determine the effectiveness of the feature as soon as it was released, and for establishing exactly what additional functionality would be of greatest benefit to our users. Based on the data, we decided to expand the feature to allow a setting of public/secured on individual Views, and have already scheduled this work. All of this was all accomplished within two weeks of the original feature release! 

Keep a lookout for future New Feature alerts and other opportunities to participate in the development of the Catalyst Tools.

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