Most of the time, new users stumble on the same questions or have difficulties grasping the meaning of some of the features of a mobile app. How can you help them navigate a complex application or show what is different in your application?

We found a few ideas implemented by app developers:

  • in-app feedback feature
  • in-app help sections
  • FAQs on the websites
  • videos on supporting website or YouTube

I want to touch on the way an app could benefit from its users in a constructive, not obtrusive way. Most of the apps have a “give-me-a-hint” page, most of the time forwarded to an email address. That is a “tunnel-vision” dialog. We are trying to describe in simple terms, why some of our features are worth trying/changing and it seems the only way to penetrate the app landscape is with videos attached for our apps. We have manuals/FAQs/explanations for all our apps but everyone is asking “do you have a video ?”.

The video path is not very hard to add, but it limits the dialog to past/existent app without adding value or opening a real dialog with our users. We have several versions for our apps, some are only for our subscriber customers. We thought about a way to cut the long way of talking or emailing and have a documented way and therefore an idea looked attractive to us – opening a forum for all our customers. Based on the feedback received via emails and discussions in the forum we envision the future versions of our apps will be released after a process following the steps:

  • enhance the current product
  • measure the reaction and feedback
  • alter the enhancement to keep only the features having the most thumbs-up from our customers
  • repeat

At the same rate, the forum can be used privately for customers with special features released in the apps (or subscribers) – we recognize the competitive advantage cannot be shared with everybody.

Are the social media channels a replacement for a local forum? We can have a dialog on Twitter or Facebook, but we are loosing the historical feature of the dialog, and the channeling discussions based on topics. We think the forum will add structure, openness  and represent a voting machine for users active using our apps.

What do you think?

What are the difficulties of maintaining a forum? Is it relevant for the product development, when in same cases the heavy users are tipping the point on the developments they want to be added? How open can be the forum(when in fact anybody can participate) ?  Your competition can also use it as an external voting machine, do you care? How can you raise the bar of the issues discussed in the forum, besides being a user-manual?