Consider this post a transition. Our month of content about knowledge bases is ending and our month of content on betas and launches is just starting. Stay tuned for more!

surprise babyIt might be your baby. It might be cute. But if it poops on someone else’s carpet, they won’t care about any of that.

When launching a new feature or improvement, you’re often excited. You see all the good and happiness is going to create. Sure, perhaps a few instructional articles and an announcement blog post are worthwhile, but mostly you just want to release this bundle of joy to the world!

The problem is that people don’t always see product improvements in a positive light. Put yourself in the shoes of an end-user. How often does a software update drive you crazy? Windows 8 and Final Cut Pro X are some great examples of disastrous updates that were supposed to be great.

(Babies are also a good example. You can’t wait to meet your offspring. Your drinking buddy may not be as excited that you’re going to be spending all your time with it. If it poops on his carpet, then he’s really not going to be pleased.)

So before you launch that new thang, take a step back and use your imagination. Yep, like when you were a little kid. What could someone possibly be upset by? What might irritate someone, even though you think it’s an improvement? What might get in the way of someone’s habits?

(Beta testing obviously helps you catch some of these things without using as much imagination.)

For the things that can be worked around or explained, write documentation. Buried a feature under a menu or changed a default setting? Communicate that clearly. For those that are just going to be matters of opinion, be sure to validate and address them, preferably right alongside the announcement. Changed the theme of your app or consolidated functionality? Tell people why and acknowledge that change is scary. It’s amazing how much saying “we know this might be a little frustrating, but we think it’s worth it” will do compared to “enjoy the update”.

MAJOR kudos to Josh Judkins for inspiring this post via his comments at Customer Service Breakfast.

Tracks photo courtesy of Woodlywonderworks