(Photo by Flickr user Dennis Skley, used under a Creative Commons license)
When Technical.ly’s editor-in-chief asked me if I wanted to do a guest post, I jumped at the chance. I planned on putting together the most fantastic article anyone has ever seen. It was going to wow everyone! However, if you’ve ever read any of my previous work you’ll know that any plan for glamor, dazzle, or pizzazz was doomed from the start.
Instead, this is going to be honest.
I launched Supportify over three years ago as a means of providing a tech demo for my consultancy at the time, Inventive Minds. Supportify was about getting help content (FAQ lists, knowledge bases, etc.) to your users when, where and how they need it. I chose help content because I felt like we all know we need better help content for our applications, but it’s never a priority because the amount of effort it takes just isn’t worth the perceived ROI.
When I left Inventive Minds, I made a deal to take the intellectual property for Supportify with me because, although I couldn’t explain why at the time, I felt like it meant something. I landed a single customer a couple of months after my exit and not many more. Instead of seriously addressing any business, product or sales problems, I engineered things. In a two-year span, I replatformed three times. I updated the marketing pages. Added e-mail templates. Nothing, though, honestly addressed the core problems of Supportify as a business.
By the end of last year, I realized I needed to either let the project die, or seriously start addressing the non-code issues. I chose the latter.
I’ve spent the time since then doing sales training, reading about better communication skills, going to numerous meetups around town and having one-on-ones at many of the excellent coffee and alcohol establishments in our fair city. I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable with talking to other people and even better at listening to them. I’ve also learned a ton.
I’ve learned that the simplest help content can save you as few as 10 hours a month or as many as 50+. I’ve learned that better help content allows for greater user empowerment. I’ve learned that the best help content removes the noise from a discussion and allows you to have some of the greatest, and most authentic, conversations that you’ve ever had with your customers.
I also learned that the product I built is bloated.
Supportify has too many features I thought were clever and not enough features that were asked for, validated or even really researched. In thinking about it, I realized that I had never even confirmed whether or not my original assumption was correct. Is help content never a priority because people honestly feel that the amount of effort it takes versus the perceived ROI is not worth it? Maybe no one believed that and instead people felt that the tools and technologies available today allowed them to “UX” their way out of needing help.
The only article you’ll find on the topic is over two years old. I couldn’t find any other research, studies or blogs concerning application UX and help content. So, a little over a month ago, my current partner and I decided that before we move forward any further, it was time to gather data.
We put together a simple survey to collect input from anyone who has had a hand in shipping a mobile application. If this questionnaire yielded positive results, then we decided that we would pivot on our strategy, minimize our target audience and renew our efforts in connecting with people. If it had results invalidating our core hypotheses, we decided we would shut Supportify down and move on to other ideas.
We unceremoniously launched the questionnaire last month and have slowly gathered almost 150 responses. In the time since then, we’ve learned more than we thought possible. Rather than risk a confirmation bias, I’m not going to say any more; I’ll leave it to your imagination as to whether this bodes well or ill for Supportify as a company.
Instead, what I will do is share one final thought with you: Help and Support tools in general are pretty pitiful. They leave both users and product teams frequently unhappy. They exist in this state because no one has ever taken the time to have a loud enough discussion that leads to a call for change. And, why would they? We all have our products and businesses to worry about.
It’s time to change that.
We’ve gotten within range of 150 responses in a relatively short time, but we don’t want to stop there. We want your help to build a legitimate study that has a chance at making a dent in the universe. In order to do that we need 1,000+ responses. If you’ve ever worked to bring a mobile app to the marketplace, then help us by complete this study by adding your voice today.
Even if you haven’t ever worked on a mobile app before, you can still help us by spreading the word by asking others to share their opinions and feedback.
Once we finished gathering data we will come back with the analysis and share the results with everyone. Let’s make a difference together!-30-