Building Software for Nontech Users

Susannah Bailin, the co-founder and CEO of AC-Health (formerly AdviceCoach),  spoke with Startup Hypeman about building software for nontechnical users. Here are some main takeaways from the podcast.

1. Design is Key

Building TechnologyThe reality of today’s modern world is that people care about the design aspect of your product. If something does not look good the first time a user tries your product, it is very hard to get them back. This is where design comes in. It is critical to have a designer, at least on a part-time basis, to design the workflow. Nontechnical users who do not understand the technology behind a product instead look to the user interface. If you are building software for nontechnical users, the end user is most likely not a techie. They thus have low tolerance for unpleasing design elements.

People often do not have much patience in regards to design. They cannot see past something unpleasing. If their keyboard covers any part of a button, they may believe that the technology is not working properly. So you have to be very careful about saying, “Don’t worry, we’ll fix it later.” They’re just not going to use it. The people who do keep using it are people who have a vested interest in you, like family and friends. Otherwise, cold users have very low tolerance for things that are not working properly.

Ease of use is another important consideration. Come at it from a child’s perspective. If you were handing your product to a 6-year-old, how many instructions would you have to give for them to understand it? At AC Health, we developed a very simple process for making a playbook, for people who are not technical. Anybody can make a channel. You could even create a channel for your children. The channel could be on the chores that they need to complete, and you can upload a video and send push notifications.

One mistake we made is that we thought that it would be best to have everything you need on one screen. However, it is too confusing to have too much information on one screen. So, we simplified the process so that a playbook can be created by answering only 4 questions. Then, in seconds, it can be published on any iOS or Android platform.

2. Find Early Adopters

Start with someone who has the energy and enthusiasm for what you are doing and will promote your product. It is especially important to have someone who is willing to put up with your bugs and mistakes. Errors will happen during the iteration process, so find someone who will stick with you. The people who helped me during AC Health’s development were basically doing me a favor.

At AC Health, our early adopters already believed that the highest quality of care was a personalized exercise plan. Our early adopters also had the wherewithal for taking out their phones and making videos. Find these enthusiasts first, and focus your energy on them.

Who is Paying You vs. the End User

The sales process has to work with the person who is paying you. The person who is paying you has to have their problem solved. If their problem has to do with someone else, that person needs to want to use your product for service. These have to be parallel considerations.

Sometimes, whoever is paying you is the only person who is using it. But with subscriptions, very often the customer is the distributor of the content, and the end user is the user of the content.

In both instances, their click flow has to work in their environment. With AC Health, I knew that patients would be interacting with my technology at home. They would also be doing something that they did not want to do since it hurts to do exercises. This meant that there needed to be as little friction as possible. The provider also needed to make sure that there would not be extra time added to their day from recording videos. In my case, both the patient and the healthcare provider are important.

3. Gather Quality Feedback

Gathering feedback is not a scientific process. You do not need to do random studies, but you cannot just ask a few people. It is a bad idea to iterate based on a small amount of feedback. If you do, the actual outcome could be skewed and different from expected.

Be extremely thoughtful about what each person’s bias is, towards whatever you are asking them about. And make sure to not just ask family and friends. That way, when you compile the data, there will be real substance to it.

The most important aspect about feedback is to put your product in the context where it is going to be used. First, have a very simple onboarding video, then give it to them and tell them to use it. Look at what they are doing or not doing, and ask them why they are doing what they are doing. Context is important because a user’s frame of reference will change depending on where they are (school, work, home, etc.). We behave differently in different places, or when there are different people around us due to social pressure. You want to make sure that your product fits a user’s regular routine.

Building software for nontechnical users is difficult, but follow these tips and you will be well on your way. Intuitive design ensures that nontechnical users can easily use your software. Early adopters will support you as you work out bugs and errors. Finally, gather feedback from the context where your software will be used.