Monday 26 October 2009

BarCampLondon7: Supporting the masses

Tony McCrae

Experience from — an online tool for organising rowing outings. Set up during a Guardian employee’s spare time for his own rowing club, but suddenly getting over 1000 users. He needed to support the users of the site without spending time on them.

  • sort out forgotten logins
    • though have to be careful about security
    • generate nice passwords using pwgen
    • facebook isn’t permitted in some firms (so no facebook connect)
    • prompt end users to talk to someone else other than you!
  • can your users be divided into groups?
    • form a relationship with one member in each group
  • demo as documentation — install a full demo system with sample data and let them play
    • reset its data regularly (but make sure you tell people!)
    • Jira now has jQuery-based inline popup help
  • invest in getting your domain unblocked
    • put SPF in your DNS
  • even if you send from noreply@, check the volume going to it!
    • a spike may indicate something going wrong
  • don’t tell everyone when changes happen
    • just senior users
  • introduce new features to a smaller test group
    • enable beta group
  • allow users to export their data automatically
  • and
    • with a forum on-site, people keep on requesting the same new features, even if you provide a roadmap
    • moving to these customer satisfaction sites means that existing feature requests no longer generate complaints!
    • instead, people vote up the existing requests
    • of course, if the requests never get monitored or picked up, you’ve still got disgruntled users
  • really loud heavy users can be very powerful for good or bad
    • hire them! or at least make them happy
  • gmail labs has “canned responses”
  • open source core product to ensure continuity
  • provide “paid for” additional capabilities

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