I am a big proponent of community based development. I remember a meeting I had a short while ago with FreshBooks, CEO, Mike McDerment, who really made it clear to me the power of community. His advice at the time was to offer your service for free from the start and nurture/build your community. Once you have a solid community of active members you can gather valuable feedback to find out exactly what your customers want and need. If you really know what your customers want/need you can create value in your property that users will want to pay for.
Mark Dowds also used a similar methodology to create the preliminary concept for his creation, Brainpark. He brought a number of community members as well as a sketch artits into creative meetings to form the early direction of his application. The application has grown since those early sketches, however the core functionality is based on community feedback.
I think this methodology is valuable and there are many services out there that help harness the power of user generated feedback (such as uservoice). However, a recent article posted by Hanford Lemoore suggests that we should not be too impulsive when acting on community feedback. Yes, feedback is important. However, there are always underlying reasons for a feature request and before simply (or not so simply in most cases), making that change, it is useful to understand why the user NEEDS the feature. He suggests that in most cases there is a root cause to the users problem that has an underlying solution rather than a simple bandaid fix. Read more about Hanford’s experiences below:
blog.hanfordlemoore » Blog Archive » Don’t do what your users say …
Community is big these days. You’ll hear lots of designers tell you that it’s important to build a strong community and listen to them, because they are your core users. And I agree with that.
But in UI design it’s important to understand that what a user says and what a user is telling you can be two different things.