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While an unmatched feature set can get you selected by a customer, an exceptional user experience is what increases adoption, usage, and—most critical in SaaS—loyalty. A lot more goes into a product’s user experience than just the existence of some features. Though they are not always mutually exclusive, compromises are often made to maximize one strength at some cost to another.

You are either building a multitude of features for a new product, or adding a new feature to an existing feature set. Technology in the business world is an options arms race. Offering options to work the way end users find most familiar, efficient, and or convenient is a direct testament to the design of a product’s user experience.

Thus, adoption cannot be forced; it is in many ways earned. You can have IT departments championing your product with mass deployment, but if your end users hate the experience, churn is inevitable. While Egnyte gains a lot of customers thanks to our uniquely secure and hybrid architecture, we keep them because of our constantly evolving UX.

There are typically three approaches to building a comprehensive user experience.

  • The most lackadaisical approach to UX is to not care about UX. Industry disruptors tend to favor this approach, simply because they don’t have competitors and it is more important to establish a beachhead. This is fine to start, but without rapidly iterating to one of the latter choices, you are bound to get pushed out when more vendors appear. We see this quite often in SaaS.
  • The holy grail approach that many UX experts seek is to create a holistically sound product, comprising just little bit from each feature to maximize stickiness. The problem is that this is incredibly time consuming; I could dedicate several posts on this topic alone. Furthermore, compromises can add up, which can create delays to market at critical times.
  • The last approach is to produce a product that may be technically feature rich, but has a user experience centered on a manageable subset of commonly used features. The benefit here is that you satisfy the bare minimum feature checklist that many businesses have to even begin considering products. When done right, usability for the majority of your customers will actually improve. You’ve also created more wiggle room for your UX Experts to operate, optimizing only the common features. The downside is that if you choose an incorrect feature subset or if you don’t react quickly to a pivoting market, you’re in for a long winter.

If you want to build a solution that lasts and evolves with your customer needs, I think the best approach is the latter. You are not made out of money and even if you are, opportunity cost is often many times more important than money. If you’re going to make tough calls and compromise either way, why not just own up, compromise on checklist features, and build your differentiators out of this world?

With today’s ability to pull and analyze data on anything, finding your common feature set is not so difficult. Talk to your customers and find out what they actually like about your product and how they like to use it. Couple that with an analytics platform to monitor usage changes. Make it known to your customers that your app is built to optimize the workflows that they care about the most, and they will most certainly be understanding if certain experiences that they want but barely touch are a little subpar.

Remember: Good apps are not just functional and usable; they are delectable. Here’s an analogy to explain what I’m on about.

No one ever complains about macadamia nut cookies. Unlike the other highly subjective (and often disgusting) cookie flavors, macadamia nuts are universally loved for what they bring to the cookie table. When a meal comes with a macadamia nut cookie, you enjoy every crumb unless you are someone who avoids all nutty cookies.

But whichever side you’re on, you know that the person who prepared the meal was thoughtful enough to provide the finest cookie out there. Whether or not you eat it, you’re surely not going to complain that it was a feature.

So here is my advice to UX novices; the same advice I live by at Egnyte. Make your product a macadamia nut cookie.