Is anybody out there?

Exploring the challenges of market research in software development, focusing on understanding customer needs and potential directions for product development.

by Ben Allums
April 2, 2010

Market research is tricky business. Knowing how to help your current customers is an easy affair (Focus, Focus, Focus). Keep your ears open, and they will tell you what they need. Finding something new that both your current customers and potential customers find exciting is quite a bit more difficult. I can't ask a customer focus group from 2011 what I should be working on today. So, like everyone else, we just do our best by gathering market data and reading the tea leaves.

Recently, I blogged on our approach for validating market directions with sketches (Sketching the Future). Now I'll show you how we are working to locate those potential directions. Our goal for each market is to simply understand: Is anybody out there there?

ePublisher's flexible nature and open architecture mean the platform is often used to address a wide variety of publishing challenges. The only limitations to creating solutions are time and effort. How can we find the right ones?

Here's a list of ideas that we believe have potential value as part of the ePublisher platform:

We will be linking to these pages (and others like them) in our newsletters, Google Adwords campaigns, etc., and learning from people's actions. See something you like? Click through and learn more. Not your thing? Then exit the page. All of this information helps us learn which topics resonate with visitors. The goal is for us to see if we are hearing and understanding people's requirements for the ePublisher platform.

A big part of this approach is ensuring we are ready to engage customers before we invite their feedback. Right now, we just want to see what people are reading and clicking on. Next, as we find promising areas to explore, we will extend those topics with simple surveys to help us validate our understanding. Finally, as we move into sketches, prototypes, and early access builds, we will post sign-up forms which let you know we are ready to engage you directly.

Net result? A better ePublisher. An ePublisher that meets a growing market's needs.

Further Reading