Time is valuable. In fact, time is the single most valuable thing any of us have. That’s why I think it’s so important not to waste time if you don’t have to. Every second you waste working on something unnecessary is literally cannibalizing your life.
Over the span of my professional career, I’ve spent the vast majority of my time building developer services at small companies (including my own). I’ve also had the opportunity to meet, work with, and advise other developer-focused businesses.
But through all my experience working with businesses building developer products and services, there’s always been something that’s annoyed me: user feedback.
Why Companies Use User Feedback to Drive Product
If you wanted to start a new online business today, what would you do? I suspect that you’d most likely:
- Plan out what you want to build
- Draw up some sketches of what the product should look like and how the functionality should work
- Build a simple minimum viable product
- Show it to users and get feedback so you don’t waste my time building unnecessary stuff or something users won’t like
If you’re anything like me, the steps above seem fairly reasonable. After all – if you’re building something you intend people to use, you wouldn’t want to waste thousands of hours creating something your users won’t like.
It makes sense that you’d start small, get some feedback, and iterate what you’re working on to maximize your chances of being successful: whether that’s selling a product, getting users, or whatever it is you’re trying to optimize for (which is very much the Lean Startup way).
The reason companies rely so heavily on user feedback to drive product decisions and resource allocation is because it works. Regardless of what you’re building, you’ve got to make sure your product is appealing to your userbase. If it isn’t, you’re wasting precious time.
But… What would you say if I told you that you didn’t need to constantly conduct user research? What if you could build a product that you know your users are going to love, even without ever talking to them?
If you had a 100% guarantee that the thing you’re building is exactly what your users want, would that allow you to move faster? Instead of needing to talk to people, run A/B tests, send out email surveys, etc., you could focus on the most important thing: continuing to build and evolve your service to make it more attractive to your userbase.
Sound too good to be true? It isn’t!
Why You Don’t Need User Feedback to Build a Successful Product
The simple secret to building a successful product quickly is to build products for people like you.
If you’re a developer and you’re building a Postgres hosting service, for example, you don’t need to rely on user feedback to make a great product because you already know what the ideal version of your product looks like! You are the target user!
That’s one of the reasons I love building developer services: I’m a developer and I build things that I want to use.
If you’re already the target customer of your product, you don’t need to waste any time tracking down other developers to get their feedback or insight: just build your service and continue improving it as quickly as possible.
Doing things this way puts you at a massive advantage over your competitors because you don’t need to waste time collecting feedback, having product strategy meetings, etc., all you need to do is build what you already know is a winning product and start selling.
What Successful Products Look Like
Successful products are often built by (and led) by experts in the field. Twilio, for example, was founded by Jeff Lawson, Evan Cooke, and John Wolthuis – three incredibly talented engineers who had years of experience as developers services before ever starting the company.
While I have no first-hand knowledge of how these companies were founded and what went on behind the scenes, I’m willing to be that in each case the founding team knew exactly what they wanted to build, which is partially why they succeeded: they had a strong vision, understood the problems their customers had well, and quickly built solutions that they would use themselves.
While you don’t need to be an expert in your business domain, it certainly helps. If you already know all the problems your customers face and exactly what they need to be successful, you can skip all the trial-and-error most startups go through, avoid wasting time (and money), and ship solutions much faster than you’d be able to otherwise.
Don’t Waste Time
If you’re starting a business, there’s no reason why you need to get user feedback if you already have a deep understanding of the problem space. Build an MVP, get people using it, and just keep building and selling.
As your business grows, there will certainly come a time when you might need to bring in product people to help conduct research and figure out what things to prioritize, but you can safely avoid that expense for a long time if you’re already your own target customer.
The faster you move, the more likely you are to succeed. Spend your time and focus building the product you need and there’s a good chance others will find it useful as well.