Monday, May 6, 2013

We pick you up if you fall down

















Did you know that building a research platform is like giving birth to a living creature? You need to constantly feed it, love it, grow it, make it better if it breaks down, keep it clean and make people fall in love and stay in love with it. from time to time it also mis-behaves, delights or simply gives people whatever they were expecting. It just doesn't stop. I smile when I think back to 2009; when I thought that once finished and launched I could sit back and chill.

Something else you might not know is that you can't 'sell' a platform like you can, say, a consultancy project. Because clients usually have to use the platform themselves. So no matter how slick your walkthrough is, at some point you will have to stand back and leave a user to make sense of it on their own. Will they use 'Help & Support' if they get stuck or will they just think your platform doesn't work correctly?

An agency planner once said to me: "We feel this platform is still in Beta." I asked him to explain. "Because the tasks came out all mixed up." So I explained that they needed to press 'Enter' to create a new task and a new line. There followed a long silence. "Then why didn't you tell us?" To which I replied, "I did. And why didn't you just ask us when you saw the mixed up text?"

Lesson learnt. Don't leave anyone to use the platform by themselves for the first time.

Back to selling the app. No matter how slick your demonstration is, no matter how brilliant your product is, it's success comes down to the ability and opinion of the individual who is using it. There is no point saying, well, Malcolm Webster at G&T didn't get stuck with tasks.

I have had situations which had nothing to do with our platform or app at all. A client was getting increasingly cross about entries being slow to send (arrive). I tried to helpfully explain, "But you said households would have WiFi and none do. You also said that 3G was strong yet everyone is still on EDGE..." He was having none of it: "It worked much better before when you came over. Have you done something to your platform?" It didn't matter how many times I explained that their London offices with high speed internet was a very different place to the working class suburbs of Mumbai. In the end, we received 2,500 entries for a  project among working mums in Mumbai. Yes, our app successfully sent 15Mb to 50Mb files to our web interface over EDGE. It took time, but we didn't lose a single entry.

I challenge anyone out there to send 2500 files x 15Mb over EDGE without a single error. Prove it and I will promote you on this here blog.

I guess with almost 7,000 signed up users (excluding research participants), we will get some questions and support tickets. So to avoid the annoying problem of users forgetting how to work our platform and not getting in touch, we have created a bunch of short films to help users refer to specific topics, fast.

Let's see if it works.


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