I recently came across this quote by Jason Goldberg, founder and CEO at FAB.com. It simply said:
As a founder, if you haven't used your own app in a week, you're building the wrong app
Well duh, you say... I bet you use your product all the time. You're a founder, internet king and UI designer extraordinaire... of course you use your own app — actually you're probably one of the most active users in your system (I know I am)!
Maybe, just maybe, you're not actually using your product at all — at least not in the way Jason is referring to. If you're anything like me; the main way you use your own product is for testing... you hunt down bugs, performance test, and iron-out some of those weird edge-case scenarios. You call it "dog-fooding", yet of your entire user base, you're probably to be the only person who uses your product in this way.
What Jason is talking about is really using your product. Using it like your customers do; to solve a real-world problems, with real-world deadlines. Using your product alongside other tools, with the pressures and anxieties that come with doing your job. Surely addressing those scenarios is why you created the product in the first place?
The answer — Use your product the way your customers do.
Use, then improve
That was a tipping point for me — which I can prove by highlighting a small, but important improvement I made in response to using Prevue in a real-world scenario. In November I presented a project of my own designs to a crowded room of designers and developers, using my personal Prevue account. Although I share designs regularly using the app, I rarely present my projects in person. Doing so to a crowded room, like many of you do daily, I realised something important. It wasn't a good experience.
Every time I progressed from one screen to the next, I had to wait for the next concept to slowly load. It was painful to watch, and left me awkwardly standing in silence before a room of people quickly losing interest. For all the effort that's gone into making Prevue a great design management and presentation tool... it was making me look like an idiot because of one tiny fault.
A 30 second fix
Later that day, I released an update to the app which took 30 seconds to build. A simple piece of functionality that preloads the next image in a sequence — meaning that by the time you progress to the next image in a project, it'll display instantly. No awkward silences, no me-standing-like-an-idiot waiting. Similarly, the first image in a project will also pre-load when you view the main project overview... so that first image is ready to view as soon as you click it.
Ultimately, it was only in using my product as a customer that I was able to find a way to improve the experience in such a tiny, but meaningful way. Without using the app in this way, there's no way I could have known how important such a tiny detail would be. So as Jason correctly pointed out; if you start using your product regularly, and as a customer, you'll start to see the features and improvements that really matter.