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Being responsive: Using customer insights to reinvent product features

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Updates & Product Tips

“Be careful what you build: every feature has an ongoing cost.”

That piece of advice ought to be engraved on every tech team’s office wall if it isn’t already engraved on their minds. It’s a stern reminder that the things you develop today could potentially become the problems you’ll need to fix tomorrow.

And if those things aren’t inherently valuable to end users, then they’re not going to add value to your core product. In fact, they’re more likely to diminish it by draining precious resources.

That’s why many tech teams approach feature requests with the same caution as they would answering the door in the middle of the night. And rightly so: feature creep is like an uninvited guest who comes in and, bit by bit, takes over.

Identifying problems worth solving

Let’s take our image drag & drop question type as an example, which has long been popular with content authors because it’s easy to use, flexible, engaging, and accessible for end-users with visual disabilities.

Despite the many things that made the question type great to use, it still wasn’t perfect.

“It’d be great to have a question type that works like image association but uses the classification framework so you can add multiple responses to each cell in any order. Sort of like classification imposed on an image.”

– Feedback from Customer A

“When viewing a question on a laptop and a tablet, we notice that the background image is sometimes scaled down while the response areas (drop zones) are not responsive. This causes the drop zones to sometimes overlap each other and also to sometimes shift out of alignment with the background image.”

– Feedback from Customer B

The comments above are from real customers who’ve identified real problems. It was through such feedback that we could clarify where things could be improved. As we gathered more insights, certain consistencies began to emerge. Content authors and end users (i.e. learners) reported experiencing issues with certain aspects of the UI.

Feature creep is like an uninvited guest who comes in and slowly takes over. Click To Tweet

One such problem was the question type’s responsiveness. Along with a lack of control over the background image size, content authors reported that they found it difficult to place drop targets as accurately as they’d like. As a result, the content they created worked well on desktop but not as well on mobile devices. This was something the team knew it needed to address.

Making it again to make it better

Rather than address issues within the existing question type, the team decided that the best approach was to look toward creating a new and improved version of the image cloze question type.

This also afforded greater freedom to implement additional feature requests that could add real value.

At a glance – Improvements via customer insights

  • Improved responsiveness: users on mobile devices should now get a similar visual experience to those on desktops.
  • Multiple responses can be added to each drop target.
  • New color and transparency settings on response zones, giving authors further control of the visual presentation of the question.
  • Added drawing tools making it easier for authors to create response zones on the image.
  • Improved accessibility for screen reader use.

One of these was giving authors more control over drop targets. In the previous version of the image cloze question (V1), drop targets would automatically resize, sometimes obscuring content that the author wanted to remain visible.

In the updated version (V2), users can add multiple responses to drop targets without changing their shape. This means they can be combined into groups such as in the following example:

If there are too many responses inside a drop target to display properly, then users can simply press a button to expand the container to view all the responses inside.

Taken together, these changes are designed to make the visual experience for mobile and desktop users more consistent, intuitive, and responsive.

It was thanks to customers that we learned to make the authoring experience far smoother. Click To Tweet

Backward compatibility

The new and improved image cloze question type is a major advance on its predecessor, but the team still felt the need to bridge the two by making the newer version backward compatible with the older one.

There are some limitations, however.

As mentioned, drop targets in the original version (V1) could automatically resize themselves. But in the new version (V2), their size and shape are locked relative to the background image.

While the team felt this creates a simpler and more effective experience for students and authors, it means that any V1 questions that are updated to V2 may need to be double-checked and adjusted to suit the new rule.

Small changes with a big impact

It was thanks to real-use customer cases that we learned to make the authoring experience far smoother and the end-user experience more intuitive and powerful.

Even some seemingly minor interaction changes have made a huge impact on how users engage with the new image cloze association question type. And those major steps forward only confirmed what we already knew: customer insights should be at the heart of product development.

Micheál Heffernan

Senior Editor

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