Users Are the Best Feature

As an engineer I like to talk about the features of a product. I talk about the product’s implementation and how it was built. I get excited about the internal workings. I have spent days of my life working on features that were never used. I operated under a mental framework that users came from outside and were external to the product. I was concerned with building the product. The users would be there when I was done. So I spent most of my time heads down writing code.

So I spent most of my time heads down writing code.

During college I spent a whole summer internship building an automated test case generation program for network router configurations. While building that product I only did one session with the engineers I expected to use the product. It was a presentation late in the summer. I wrote no documentation.

The program was never used after I went back to school. I am sure this is a tale that is familiar to many in the software community. Spend months of time to build something that once completed is immediately scrapped.

The program was never used after I went back to school.

It is a cautionary tale of building without user feedback and not building usage along with building the product. At the time I told myself: the company had problems; it was their fault they couldn't see the value in the tooling I built.

Now, I have come to realize: users are a feature. They are the best feature. With users a product is alive and useful. If I want users then I need to spend time working on that feature.

Users are a feature. They are the best feature. With users a product is alive and useful.

There are several ways to work on the users feature. Whether I spend time acquiring, educating, activating, retaining, supporting, scaling or nurturing them, I need to do it with the same intentionality and focus as I work on any other feature. Again, users are a feature. And, they are the best, most important, and hardest feature there is.

So you agree? Great!

What is next?

How do we magically "get" users? Where is the "hello world" for user acquisition? Where is the "npm init" for this feature?

Well this post series is an attempt to catalogue the specific tactics and actions that have worked for me.

Posts in this series:

  • Users: Going from 0 to 1 (coming soon)
  • Users: Going from 1 to 10 (coming soon)
  • Users: Going from 10 to 100 (coming soon)

Resources

Other people have great write ups on what might work in general, current favorites: