It took months of work and a significant chunk of the budget, but it’s finally here: your new software product. Could be an app, a website, an internal tool, an ordering platform. Whatever it is, it’s the latest and greatest.
Except usage isn’t anywhere near what it should be. People just… aren’t using it. Why not? How could we have avoided this, and is it fixable now?
1. It was the wrong thing to build
Requirements analysis and user research are not for the faint of heart. It’s easy to listen to people rattle off a list of what they want. It’s harder to figure out what they actually need. But that’s what you need to do if you want to build a product that will deliver what people need.
And if you don’t deliver what they need, why would they use it? It takes training and practice to really get it right – that’s why a skilled analyst is worth their weight in gold.
2. Key stakeholders are mad at you
Every product team has familiar roles: product manager, designer, engineer, etc. But every team also needs an extended family. That could be users of the product, promotional partners, leaders from different corporate departments who could be affected or just want to feel like they had a voice.
The success of a product is hugely dependent on engaging the right stakeholders throughout the build and scaling process. Because if someone feels they’ve been left out, they’ll be inclined to resist any changes you’re making – and they’ll tell others not to support your product.
3. You didn’t manage the change effectively
Change is inevitable, but change is also hard. If you’re introducing a new product, you’re likely also introducing change to business processes, document formats, modes of communication, maybe even organizational structures. That’s scary! And people’s natural reaction to fear is anger and resistance.
To curb that reaction, implement a change management program that alleviates the fear. Help people understand why the change is happening, what the change is, and how it will benefit them. Don’t sugar-coat the downsides, but do emphasize the positives. You’ll find the resistance never goes away entirely, but will smooth out significantly.
4. No one knows how to use it
Whether you’re replacing an existing tool or rolling out something completely new, you have to make sure everyone is actually able to use it. It doesn’t matter how functional and cutting-edge your new product is; if people log in and get lost the first time, they’ll give up quickly.
If user experience wasn’t sufficiently worked into the end product, it may be time to assess UX and make some targeted improvements. Additionally, provide thorough, well-organized reference documentation and training to address any terms or features that aren’t completely self-explanatory.
Training and documentation should always be in context as much as possible, but for very complex or full-featured products, it may be necessary to provide additional training via videoconference or in person.
5. No one knows about it!
No one will use your new product if they don’t know it exists. Communications throughout a build are vital, and it’s extra important to communicate to future users. They should know what this product is, why it's so awesome, and when to expect it.
Make sure your sales and marketing teams are knowledgeable about the product and can communicate its value to target customers. For internal products, work the corporate communication channels. If a website or intranet will be sending users to this product, make sure the information architecture is sensible enough to guide people there.