In October 2018 I started working at Uptrends as a software developer. Before that, I worked at FileLinx for 7 years as a frontend developer, UI / UX designer, and development team lead. This is me sharing some of my experiences on improving the applications I work on.

On development priorities Jan 16, 2019

As part of a yearly cycle, all employees of Uptrends are requested to provide input on what they think should be the top three development priorities of the coming year. This input is then filtered based on its estimated impact on business value. The results are embedded in the roadmap for the coming year, and presented to the company. Take a look at the top three development priorities I submitted.

3. User engagement improvements
Since my start at Uptrends a couple of months ago, I’ve spent a lot of time getting to know (some of) the many features of the product. A daunting task, since the product has gained a lot of features over the years. It would’ve been nice if someone held my hand while I was exploring - or pointed me where to look. I had the advantage of being able to ask all my questions to the developers directly, but the customers don’t. Also, I had an internal document helping me through the initial setup - but our customers don’t, apart from the knowledge base. I feel that should change, and that it would improve the number of users who continue to a paid plan after their trial account. A couple of pointers:

  • Last year, a “tasks” feature was implemented to urge users to do some initial setup. This year, I think we should grow this feature
  • Implement documentation functions (I’d very much like a “what the heck am I looking at” function for dashboards / tiles / charts).
  • The signup process for the product is needlessly complex, requesting user information beforehand that should be moved to later in the process: the plan they want to use, for example, should only be relevant after the trial. Also, some optional fields such as telephone number and company name might be a better fit in a “complete your profile” task.

2. Application structure improvements
The Uptrends application has very shallow structural model, which makes it hard to memorize the location of features. Every single feature is available via the main menu, and features that could logically be grouped together aren’t. This makes the user feel dumb (I can’t find that thing I used last time), confused (I swear it was here last time), not to mention overwhelmed (so many options, where do I go?) - and our users are none of these things, so we wouldn’t want them to feel like that. If a person made you feel dumb and overwhelmed, you’d rather not meet that person again, am I right? The same goes for software. Therefore, I think we should invest in making the Uptrends application easier to understand. This will raise customer enthusiasm (thus increasing the renewal rate). Some ideas:

  • Improving the menu structure to be more clear and concise.
  • Creating “overview” pages where the bulk of the actions and primary metrics for a specific category (account, monitors, alerts, ...) are available.
  • Updating the look & feel of the application to be more “easy on the eyes” so the user can process the UI easier, improving their orientation in the app. Also, users tend to be more forgiving towards minor hiccups or haziness in the product when the product just looks *so friggin’ pretty*.

1. Usage analytics
More than anything in the world I want to implement usage analytics in our product. Right now, we are as blind as a bat as to what features our users actually use in our application, or how they navigate. Without usage metrics, the only way to decide what features to improve / implement / remove is based on the totally subjective intuïtion of the team, or satisfying the demands requests of high-prio customers. We need to know what happens in our platform on a meta level. This will allow us to be confident that what we choose to alter in our product will actually improve the life of the vast majority of our users. Building a better product will increase customer engagement, resulting in a higher renewal rate.

Things that did not make my list:

  • Accessibility features. I found it’s better to first improve the environment for our current users than to make the platform accessible for new users.
  • Mobile access / responsiveness. Since our product is aimed at people who are mostly sitting behind a big screen all day, and sms alerts are already featured in our product, improving the current platform seemed more important.
  • Graphic improvements. Well, this is mentioned as a sub-point of 2, but it’s not a main focus point. The Uptrends application does look outdated, but usability is more important (although users forgive a pretty application easier).