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Continuous Product Discovery for Mobile Apps

Let’s talk about product discovery. Generally this is seen as the research and validation phase before development and release. Sounds like just another step in the plan, right? But today’s most agile companies don’t break research, development, and release into three distinct phases anymore. They’re continuously iterating, yet they’re not doing it blindly. They’ve turned product discovery and validation into an ongoing process.

In this blog post, we’ll take a deeper look at the concept of continuous discovery and how it empowers mobile product managers to guide development more quickly and accurately and support their teams in continuous delivery. Specifically, let’s look at how sending frequent small surveys to your mobile app users can help your team build a better product—faster.

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Continuous product discovery vs. continuous delivery for mobile apps

Simply put, continuous discovery is the process of concurrently researching and validating new backlog ideas. You’ll talk to your users regularly—very regularly—through small outreach efforts. For mobile product managers and designers, the easiest and most effective way to do this is to send frequent surveys to your users and have conversations with them about their needs. Think regular in-app micro-surveys of 1-5 questions that take no more than a minute or two. That way, your team is staying in touch with what their users want and need in between releases. This allows you to collect up-to-date, detailed data about their app experience during very short time frames. Whether your app is live or beta, gathering frequent small, manageable chunks of information will help you direct your research in an organized and reliable way.

Continuous delivery means that your team is pushing out small “micro-releases” at a fast pace, rather than occasionally dropping large updates and changes on your users. This method of gentle deployment is easier on both the users and the team. Releasing small changes at a time makes you less likely to introduce product-breaking bugs or unsuccessful features. It also allows your team to be more responsive and adaptive.

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Why continuous product discovery for mobile apps?

Product management is a constantly-evolving discipline; even more so in the case for mobile product managers. Old-school product managers are output driven—they’ve got a plan and they stick to it until the feature in question is built. But the expectation that you should be making data-driven decisions, and fast, makes a change in mindset necessary. Instead of sticking to a concrete plan and pushing it to completion, new-school PMs are continuously validating their products with their users. Mobile apps require a UX-centered approach, with frequent input from users. Ongoing validation ensures that you’re not straying far from success as you’re regularly charting and correcting your course. Continuously experimenting keeps you informed and agile, and small research efforts are easy to plan, execute, and analyze.

This process of continuous discovery gives mobile app PMs more of a voice in the decision-making process. All those regular check-ins and micro-validations allow your team to make decisions based on where you really are, not where you think you should be.

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Continuous discovery and your mobile team

So how does this affect your team dynamic?

For one, you’re about to start collaborating more with your tech, design, and leadership teams. You’ll be sharing real data on a consistent basis that’ll influence how your product develops. To the rest of your team, you'll have important feedback that represents the voice of the user. Your communication with both the team and users promotes thoughtful development in a fast-paced industry. Staying on the ball also allows your team to adopt more of a problem-solving mindset; the closer you are to understanding your users’ goals, the easier it is for you to design an app that’s relevant to them.

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Continuous discovery and your mobile product roadmap

Regular in-app micro-surveys are a great way to regularly take the pulse of your app. Target your surveys effectively and you’ll get real-time results from specific groups, and you can expect more accuracy and context than you’ll get from generalized or infrequent surveys.

Continuous discovery is all about regularly grabbing and digesting bite-sized pieces of information from your users rather than trying to validate ideas all in one go. The more often you’re releasing surveys, the more questions you can ask—just not all at once. Keep them short and specific. Your users will appreciate it and you’ll get more useful data. Ongoing validation and incremental, user-focused change keeps your resources on the right track instead of heading wildly off course.

Beyond validation, it’s important to keep asking questions so you can compare your progress to the big picture. Your users’ perception of your product matters greatly. It’s important for you to regularly examine whether their thoughts and interaction with your app are in alignment with your positioning, messaging, and overall vision. If your most common use cases and your marketing efforts or plan are a total mismatch, then something might need to change.

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Nurturing relationships with your mobile app users

All right, we’ve talked a lot about surveys. At this point you may be wondering how all those questions are going to impact your relationship with your users. Surveys can be a great relationship-building tool for you and your users. Which users you should talk to depends on your specific circumstances, but let’s start with some notes on creating successful outreach.

First, get to know your survey tool and its features. Instabug makes it really easy to add custom tags to users and groups. You’ll use attribute tags to label your segments, cohorts, specific research participants, you name it. Instabug’s segmentation tools allow you to do very specific research without investing lots of extra time or shipping any code changes. You can even ask your users if they’d be willing to engage in regular, quick 1-2 minute surveys and then tag everyone who answered with “yes.” Now you have an opted-in panel you can regularly engage with. Soon you’ll have groups that you feel comfortable reaching out to regularly and seeing how their opinions change over time.

Once you start sending surveys (and engaging in follow-up conversations using the in-app chat feature), you’ll get closer to your users. Continuous discovery isn’t just validation. If you’re listening to your users, it becomes co-creation. Getting user perspectives regularly allows them to be a part of your team decision making process, whether they know it or not. This will help you build more customer-centered products that make your users happier.

On the individual level, feeling listened to and valued helps establish personal interest in the product’s development, and can turn your users into enthusiastic promoters. Engaging with detractors can also be a huge net positive; just listening and identifying problems can help save high-risk users from jumping ship, while getting you valuable information that can help you improve.

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Continuous discovery and your data

Micro-surveys make it super easy to gather and interpret your data. If you’re using Instabug, much of the work is done for you already on your survey results and analysis page. All that’s left for you to do is the critical thinking. Want super-specific, actionable data? Have clear and specific goals for each survey. If you want outcome-oriented data, you need to ask outcome-oriented questions. Once you have clear and contextually appropriate data, it’s easier to map out possible paths to your desired outcome

A mindset of continuous discovery means getting into the details. Regular micro-surveys aren’t the secret to making sweeping, product-wide change. Small steps. They’ll help you make measured changes, backed by data, that add up over time, rather than trying to change everything at once. Proper attention to detail is part of what makes an elegantly designed, enjoyable user experience that’s got it right down to the last little thing.

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Product Management

Research

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