Why is it important to engage end-users in software development?

Engaging end-users in software development ensures the creation of user-friendly, effective solutions, avoiding costly redevelopments and meeting real user needs.

This is it. You decided to have bespoke software designed and developed to suit your exact needs. You found the right vendor and prepared all the necessary documents. You know the solution will automate various processes in your company and boost up the speed of your business. Unfortunately, if you yourself are not the end-user of a product, then it is not your needs which should be valued most. This matter is often ignored by many managers and business executives responsible for providing a software development company with requirements. They may think they have enough experience and business knowledge to determine what their colleagues or customers need but the reality turns out to be quite the opposite. In this article, I discuss why being user-conscious always ends in success.

When to engage end-users

A great deal has already been said about how poor performance may lead to users abandoning a website or no longer using a software solution, which is why, according to research conducted by Temkin Group, companies started paying much more attention to user experience and over 80% of them have seen a positive impact on revenue in 2017. Improving existing software is one thing, but you can prevent user dissatisfaction by engaging end-users at an early stage of software development. There are two processes where end-user participation is required to ensure project success and these are:

Requirements gathering – when acquiring new software, you first need to determine what the goals you aim to achieve are. Analysing both the problems your company is dealing with and how you can overcome them (you can find out why the problem is probably more important than the solution here) allows you to establish what kind of product is the best fit for your company, which is why it is highly beneficial to engage end-users in the process of requirements gathering. After all, those who will eventually use the software know their expectations best. Using their input, you can make sure all of the problems are exposed and can thus be solved, saving you both time and money you would spend on improving the solution.

Testing – collecting feedback and identifying the main problems your colleagues or customers are dealing with is not enough, you then need to test the solution. Testing performed not only by test engineers but also by end-users is yet another stage that allows you to ensure the product meets their needs. More than that, testing the software before it goes live makes it possible to determine whether it is not only useful but more importantly easy and pleasant to use. According to research conducted by Nielsen Norman Group, all you need in order to receive the best results is 5 users. The group is big enough to have a wide variety of needs and habits and yet does not cause chaos.

Why engage end-users

Redeveloping the software may be just as costly as its development. Luckily, engaging end-users in the process allows you to avoid these costs because:

They know their problems – having experienced the problems themselves, users can share their hands-on knowledge which is always more specific and thus more helpful than assumptions,

They know their habits – since the product should be both useful and user-friendly in order to succeed, users can easily advise on which features are most needed. Remember that every little detail counts,

They know other software solutions – there is a 99% chance that your end-users have some experience with other software solutions, which allows them to determine what they do and do not like, but it also allows you to create something unique and for your product to stand out from the crowd,

They focus on what is wrong – you may dislike this fact, but users tend to focus on the part that does not work even if it is only one of several features, while everything that works the way it is supposed to maybe simply ignored. This focus enables them to give you valuable tips on what to pay particular attention to and what to avoid when developing a software solution.

It is impossible to meet the needs of all users, however, suiting most of them ensures project success. Involving end-users in both requirements gathering and testing makes you capable of providing a product that is not only useful but more importantly user-friendly. Remember to pay close attention to what your colleagues or customers require because a software solution that nobody uses is a waste of both money and time.

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