User Interviews

How to Conduct Great User Interviews

If there's one piece of advice for product managers early in the development of their product to follow, it is to spend more time validating their idea. There's nothing better than riding the high of creating a product, but in our experience, you will end up with better product-market fit if you take time to focus on validation first. One of the easiest, cheapest, and often most effective ways to validate a product early on is through user interviews: interviews conducted with potential users from your target market so you can gain a better understanding of who they are, the problems they’re  aiming to solve, and how your product could solve those problems.

It’s never too early to get the ball rolling on user interviews, though we recommend you prepare a business model canvas to outline your assumptions about your product’s value proposition and potential market. The purpose of your user interview is to validate these assumptions through real-world conversations.

 

Who to interview

There are a couple of things to consider when selecting participants for your user interviews: first, make sure you’re interviewing potential users from your target market. You likely won’t get a whole lot of valuable feedback on your app for healthcare practitioners by interviewing your plumber. While diversity is important it is equally as important that your interviewees provide value.

Topics included in user interviews include:

  • a person’s background
  • occupation
  • use of technology (either at work or personally, whichever is relevant)
  • goals and motivation
  • pain points

 

Preparing for User Interviews

Preparing for user interviews is the first step in ensuring you gain the insight you need from the interviews. Come in with an idea of the bigger picture. What are you hoping your app or website will accomplish for your target market? User interviews are a great way to collect data that will help accept or reject any hypotheses you’ve developed.

To help achieve consistent results from your interviews, equip your moderator with a script. That said, it’s also important that the conversation doesn’t feel too scripted. Your interviewee should feel comfortable and the conversation should flow naturally. Remember, this is supposed to be a conversation between people working together to solve a problem, not an interrogation.

It is crucial to the integrity of your user interviews that your questions are not leading. Leading questions are questions that are framed in a way that leads the person answering to give a sought answer. For example, rather than asking “when would you find using my app most useful?” you could ask “would you find an app like that useful?” and then follow up with the question regarding when. Start by asking questions that can be answered with yes or no, then follow up for details. This way you’re never making assumptions and you’ll be more likely to get an honest response.

 

The Moderator

Keep in mind, the moderator can make or break a user interview. The moderator's tone and pace should match that of the person being interviews. The moderator should remain neutral and non-leading, while also remaining interested and curious about the interviewees’ responses. Passion and enthusiasm are great, but only if it’s genuine.

While you can conduct user interviews on your own, there are pros to having someone conduct them for you. It’s not much of stretch to suggest a founder or product manager may feel as though they “know best” when it comes to their product, and it may be difficult to hear things that go against their preconceived ideas or beliefs. If the founder does conduct the interviews it's important that stay open and curious. If the interviewee feels as though the person conducting the interview is taking criticism poorly, they may opt to tell them what they think they want to hear instead of what they truly believe. 

 

Conducting the Interview

There’s some debate about how much time you should spend conducting user interviews. While some suggest quick and easy 10 minute interviews, others prefer longer 30 to 45-minute interviews. Our advice? Do what feels right for your business. User interviews can be conducted by one or two people, a moderator and a notetaker. In situations where there’s just one person conducting the interview, it’s best to record the conversation and transcribe notes later. Nothing kills the flow of a good conversation faster than someone asking for a minute to write something down!

As the interview wraps up thank the participant, and be sure to give them a token of appreciation or compensate them for their time. A trial, discount, or free download or subscription of your product is also a great way to add value for many B2C products.

Are User Interviews Necessary?

We understand that running a right ship, especially pre-revenue, is extremely important. That said, we can’t recommend product validation practices like user interviews enough. If the product you're solving is not a problem you have yourself, the insight and information you'll gain will be invaluable. User interviews can shape you MVP and help you prioritize potential features. If your budget is a concern, consider them an investment in your idea rather than something holding you back; the path to a safer way forward.


Uppercut product manager

It's Time to Put on Your Product Manager Hat

You’ve got a great idea for a new app, you’ve sat on this idea for quite some time and the more you think about it the more you’re certain that you’ve got something solid to work with. You’ve run it by your inner circle and they’ve all reassured you that it’s a great idea. But now what? How do you go about turning that great idea into a product, and how do you get that product to the people that need it most? It’s time to put on your product manager hat.

Great ideas are surprisingly plentiful. The difference between a great idea and a great product is often a great product manager. The product manager orchestrates bringing the product to life, handling everything from building the right team to keeping everyone focused on the “why”, “what”, and “when” of the product. Here are some helpful tips for building your digital product.

Market Research

Before you get too far ahead of yourself, you need to put your head down and dive deep into research. A good place to start is the business model canvas, a lean startup template that helps you quickly get a minimal business plan down on paper. Think of this as your roadmap to help you stay on track when things inevitably get complicated. The business model canvas helps you structure your thinking and determine which parts of your business needs to be validated.  

Validating your product is how you will determine if there is a legitimate need for your product in the market. It might sound great to you, but if there isn’t a need being served then getting and retaining users is going to be a constant uphill battle. Next, consider your competition. While there’s no harm in competing for market share, you should really think about what your competitive advantage will be.

If your research helps you determine that this is a need for your product and that your product offers something unique to customers, then it’s time to start diving deep into who makes up your market. You should try to be a specific as you can when determining who would use your product, gathering as much information about them as possible. The more you know about them, the better chance you have of building a valuable solution and properly positioning it.

The big takeaway here is that you should spend time meeting with people both within and outside of your target industry and discuss your idea with them. Use their feedback and use it to help you determine if you’re on the right track. It’s okay if there are some people that don’t see value in or understand what you’re doing, but if that’s more often the case than not, you might want to reconsider moving forward with your current plan.

Strategy

Now that you’re thoroughly familiar with both the problem you’re solving and the people you’re solving it for, your next job as a product manager is to bring it all together. Some things that you’re going to need to consider are:

  • How are you going to fund your product?
  • What necessary skill sets missing from your team?
  • When do you plan to launch, and with which features?
  • How are you going to attract customers?
  • How are you going to monetize your product?

It’s essential that you take the time to construct a plan before you move ahead. Spending the time to create a solid strategy will help make it less stressful and easier for you and the team to adapt to unexpected changes.

Executing

After the planning and the hiring, it’s finally time to get to work on turning your idea into a product. It’s important that everyone on your team has a clear understanding of the product, their role in creating it, and a specific and reasonable timeline for their deliverables.

As the product manager, you have to balance the decisions between staying on course and pivoting. Every change or addition can potentially delay your launch date and these delays can end up being costly. However, it’s also important to consider and address valuable feedback collected along the way. It’s about making a great product that people want to use.

Launch

Today’s the big day! You and your team have put your blood, sweat, and tears into this product and now it’s finally out in the world. It’s time to crack open a bottle of bubbly and celebrate… but just one bottle, because you’ll need a clear head for what’s next.

Now that it’s out there in the hands of users, it’s time for you to find out if it really does all you set out for it to do, and for you to consider how you can make it even better. You should begin tracking how users are interacting with your product right from launch.

Iterating

Your baby is growing up so fast! New features are being added, old features are being taken away. That initial surge of users is starting to give way to a slow trickle. The more you learn from your customer base, the more you realize how much your product could evolve. Remember all of those details and features that were going to delay launch? Now you can start to think about those too. Evaluate those ideas against the user feedback you’ve received and decided if they are really as important as you thought they were.

Up until this point, your job as a product manager has been about making sure your product launches with all of the essentials, but with a product out there on the market, it’s time to think about increasing that active user count and customer satisfaction. You want to have built a product that not only stands the test of time but is improving and has a growing user base.

From here on out, it’s key that you are accurately measuring your successes and failures and changes made are based on data.

Being a product manager is both one of the most challenging and rewarding roles on a team developing a digital product. Sure, you’ll have to ask tough questions and make tough decisions, but there are few things as fulfilling as playing a crucial role in transforming something from an idea to product. All that said, if you find yourself at a loss for how to move forward with your product, we’re here to help. We’ve had plenty of practice managing products and can help move you and your team forward.

Have something to add? We’re active on Twitter and love a good conversation!


App Store Optimization

Ways to Up Your App Store Optimization Game

There are a lot of apps out there. Like, a lot. Apple says that the app store is on pace to have more than 5 million apps by 2020. So what does that mean when you’re launching your new app? It means that your app will be one of 5 million apps vying for users’ attention. It means that it’s just going to get harder and harder for your app to be found, let alone downloaded. And it means that if you’re not up to date on app store optimization (ASO) practices, it’s definitely time that you start!

By now we’re all familiar with the importance of SEO for websites, but we’ve often found there’s still a bit of a knowledge gap when it comes to ASO. Getting the app built and submitted to the app store is a process and an investment, but surprisingly, ASO is often forgotten or neglected when it can have such an impact on users finding it. Or a minimal effort goes into ASO with a “set it and forget it” attitude best reserved for infomercial rotisseries.

Well no more! We’re going to give you the rundown on everything you should consider for ASO to help you rank better and get more downloads.

Naming Your App

Everyone wants their app name to be perfect in every way: clever, descriptive, memorable, and unique. Well, here's a couple more things you might want to consider. Your app name should be phonetic and try to avoid any weird characters or symbols. The reasoning for this is pretty straightforward: if someone is raving about how awesome your app is to a friend, the last thing you want is for said friend to not be able to find it because of the name's obscure spelling with silent letters and symbols. If you have a unique name, it's much safer to spell it like it sounds.

Selecting App Store Categories

Apple allows developers to select both primary and secondary categories for their app. When you’re selecting the primary category for your app, it is important that you categorize the app based on the primary feature. We like to think of the primary feature as what your app is at its core. What are the very first words that you would use to describe what the app does? Let’s look at Instagram as an example: Instagram is very much a social media app, but it is primarily a photo and video app. If you are not interested in photos and videos, you may not like Instagram. 

We know it can be difficult to put your app in a box, but it’s a crucial part of making sure it gets found by the right people. If you struggle with this, don’t worry too much. You can also select a secondary category as well as subcategories, broadening the scope of how you categorize your app.

Keywords

If there’s one thing that has become synonymous with the idea of optimization, it’s keywords. There are a couple of places where keywords are important when it comes to app store optimization. First, you should include keywords in your app’s name as a sort of subtitle. Take Google Maps as an example: the official app store name is “Google Maps - GPS Navigation”. Next, including keywords in your app name can significantly boost your ranking in for those keywords. When it’s literally in the name, Apple thinks it’s a safe bet that it does what the user is looking for.  

Apple allows you to include 100 keywords in the iTunes Connect Keyword Field. Given the limitation here,  you’ll want to choose your keywords wisely. Don’t include any keywords included in your app name, and don’t worry about slight variants of keywords or the spelling of your app name; Apple has you covered on those. However, there is one crucial thing to remember when it comes to listing long tail keywords: if you put spaces in your long tail keywords, Apple will only recognize exact matches, but if you put commas between the words, any combination will be recognized.

Description

Your app description is where you’ll get your chance to let people know what to expect from your app. While you can opt to write a lengthy, robust description, it’s important that you put special care into crafting the first 5-6 lines of text since that is what will be displayed before having to click “more” to view the rest. In addition to providing users with an idea of what to expect from your app, it’s common practice for your description to include the details of your latest update.

Screenshot Selection

Think of it as window shopping, you want screenshots for the app store to be both beautiful and a good representation of what to expect from your app. This is where your team’s eye for design really starts to pay off. You should also prioritize your screenshots, displaying the most impactful or visually exciting screens first so that the user doesn’t have to swipe to see them.

Encourage Reviews

User reviews are important for app store optimization and very helpful in convincing people to download your app in the first place. The more five star reviews your app is able to rack up, the more likely it is that sheeple people will give it a shot. But how do you go about getting more reviews? Well, the most common way is to ask for them.

When it comes to asking users for app reviews timing is everything. Firstly avoid asking them to review your app right after it's launched. It's a common practice and it's flawed. If someone is just opening your app to use it, that doesn’t really seem like the best time to ask them to give a review – sort of like a waiter asking if you're enjoying your dish and you haven't even had a bite. A better option is to ask for a review after the user has completed the desired task within your app. Let's use a fitness app scenario: after a user has successfully logged a training session in the app, prompt the user by asking if the app worked well for them. If the user selects yes, the app then asks for a review. If the user says no, it sends them to a form where they can share their feedback about the experience. This strategic approach gets you more genuine reviews from users truly trying out the app and provides a separate outlet for users that would potentially leave a negative review.

Update Your App Regularly

By now we’re all familiar with Apple’s iPhone release schedule: there are at least two models of the iPhone announced in September and released to consumers shortly thereafter. Apple loves it when developers update their apps to utilize the latest technology and fit the newest screen size. You’ll also want to make sure that your app is updated to take advantage of the latest iOS release as well.

Apart from making sure that your app is compatible with Apple’s latest hardware and software releases, you can also improve ASO by releasing smaller updates for your app. In fact, releasing regular updates with minor improvements and bug fixes is not only great for app store optimization, but it’s also great for user retention.

Localize

If your app is available in more than one country, it is essential that you localize your ASO for each country by taking a look at local competitors and keywords. It’s also important that you work with someone that knows the local language to help you translate rather than relying on Google Translate or another online translation tool. Your app will lose significant credibility if you incorrectly translate something in your app, and it may not even be given a chance if the error is in your description.

In addition to translations, you’ll also want to pay attention to cultural norms of the markets your app is offered in. Perhaps the visuals and screenshots you use in one market may not be appealing in another, or perhaps calls to action such as requesting reviews may need to be adjusted to be more or less assertive. The key takeaway here is that what works in one market may not work in another, and your ranking in the app store may depend on different factors in different places.

Run Search Ads

There are a couple of situations when it may be worth your while to run search ads in the app store. If you're launching a brand new app,  you may want to run ads to help get a boost in visibility while acquiring those first users. Ideally, these users will help spread the word about how much they love your app and leaving positive reviews (or give you feedback about possible improvements), helping to form the ASO foundation for you to build upon.

The other situation when you may want to run search ads in the app store is if you’ve tried absolutely everything to rank higher in your category, but you just can’t seem to get a leg up on the competition. Just like with Google’s AdWords, Apple’s search ads show paid results at the very top of the search results and they are labelled as an ad. It's a good tactic to boost visibility and to create a correlation between your app and the top listed apps for the query.

If your app hasn’t been ranking as high in the app store as you would like, perhaps this is the time to start thinking about app store optimization. We’ve been focusing on building great apps for a while now and we’ve always utilized ASO to help get them found. If you have any questions or you’d like to book a consultation to talk about your app or app store optimization, we’d love to hear from you!

 


Canadian Grants Cheat Sheet

Canadian Grants Cheat Sheet

Of all of the ways to raise funding for a business, grants seem to be both the most misunderstood and elusive. Where to start looking? Which ones to apply for, as well as the conditions and fine print? Then, to proceed with the application process!

We thought we’d take a stab at demystifying grants by helping you learn where to start and what to expect when it comes to certain types of grants available here in Canada.

What are grants?

Grants are funds that are given to businesses to help them accomplish a goal that ties into the goals of the organization offering the funds. The best part? As long as you use the funds to help accomplish that goal, you don’t have to pay anything back and you don’t have to relinquish any control of your business.

Grants typically work better for existing businesses rather than new startups because it is very common that one of the conditions of a grant, is the funds are at least partially matched. For example, a $50,000 grant may require that the business contribute $25,000 of their own funds to cause or goal in order to obtain the funding. It might be a bit of a stretch for a new startup to make that sort of contribution, though it may be worth leveraging initial seed funding to obtain matching grant funds.

It is very important that you make sure that the grant you are applying for ties in directly with your business objectives. It’s never wise to allocate resources to your business to accomplish a goal that doesn’t move you forward. Things typically work out better where the grant funds a project that is mutually beneficial, as opposed to building a product around a grant.

Different Types of Grants

There is a wide range of different requirements for grant funding, however, most of them fall into one of these four categories: research, development, hiring, and expansion. Let’s take a look at each of them to help you determine which type might be best for your business.

Research Grants

Is your business engaging in primary research, i.e., research you have to go out and do yourself? If yes, take a look at research grants related to your industry. It’s no secret that knowledge is power, and if your research can help provide valuable information, then there are plenty of organizations wanting to help you out. If you are awarded a research grant, you will likely have to document your procedures and share your findings with your grantor. Do you ever have to make the findings public?

Development Grants

Development grants exist to help businesses mitigate risk and move Canada forward in terms of R&D. If your business is working on an innovative solution to a problem, then this is where you should be looking. In Alberta, entrepreneurs can fund product prototyping or development by applying to Alberta Innovates which includes the micro-voucher program that offers up to $10,000 to be paid to a service provider and the voucher program that offers up to $100,000 to be paid to up to three service providers. Federally, the Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) can help small and medium businesses fund leading-edge research and development.

Hiring Grants

Believe it or not, there are grants that will subsidize new hires! This really shouldn’t come as a surprise given that a lot of grants come from the government and governments love economic stimulus and job creation. A lot of these types of grants exist to help young people develop useful skills in industries where the need for skilled workers is increasing. While some of them will award a lump sum for each employee that meets the criteria, others will pay a percentage of a portion of a specific wage for the hiring of a new employee.

Expansion Grants

Sometimes you’ve got to spend money to make money, and this is never truer when it comes time to expand into new markets. Whether you’re covering the costs of trips abroad to meet with executives or you’re covering costs like shipping or marketing in another country, expansion can be expensive. The Alberta-Zhejiang Global Partnership Program is one example of this type of grant that supports technology-oriented companies in Alberta. Both Alberta Innovates and Zhejiang Provincial Science and Technology Exchange Center with Foreign Countries (ZSTEC) pool their resources and act as matchmakers to help a business expand into their respective markets.

Who awards grants?

Grants are typically awarded by three different types of organizations: the federal government, provincial government, or a charitable/non-profit organization.

Federal Grants

The federal government typically provides grants to businesses that are doing work that can help move Canada forward, but usually, involve research and/or innovation. As a country that relies heavily on our natural resources, it is essential that we adapt and adopt new technologies so that we can continue to progress economically. Natural resources are extremely valuable, but many of them are either non-renewable or take a lifetime to renew, making it difficult to accelerate growth through them alone. All that said, it makes sense for our government to provide federal grants to businesses that are creating new ways to stimulate economic growth.

Provincial Grants

Much like federal grants, provincial grants are typically awarded to businesses that are diversifying the economy. Alberta Innovates is a government-funded initiative providing resources for businesses across four sectors: bio-solutions, health, technology, and eco/energy. There’s no denying that technological advancements are crucial for a successful economy in the future. Provincial grants are typically awarded to help innovative companies hire and train new workers, as well as grow their business and expand into new markets.

Charitable & Non-Profit Grants

Grants from charitable and non-profit organizations are typically awarded to other charitable or non-profit organizations that move forward agenda or cause of the grantor. Some project examples that receive this type of funding include the poverty reduction, reducing homelessness, increasing food security, encouraging mental health, strengthening relationships with Indigenous communities, and pursuing an environmentally sustainable future. Essentially, if your goals are to genuinely make the world a better place, you might want to take a look at these types of grants.

One thing that should also be mentioned is that even if you are not a non-profit or charitable organization but you working with one to accomplish a goal, it may be possible to partner with a non-profit to gain access to funds you couldn’t otherwise access. This is a win-win situation for everyone involved since the goal is still being accomplished, progressing the mission of the grantor as well as the non-profit.

Resources

There are a TON of resources out there to help you find and apply for grants. There are even people that make a living finding and applying for grants on the behalf of others! If you’re interested in grant funding for your business, here are some recommended resources:

Alberta Innovates

Calgary Foundation Community Grants Program

Max Bell Foundation

Mitacs

NRC (National Research Council) IRAP: Industrial Research Assistance Program

NSERC

Telus Community Grants

 


Benefits of Interoperability in health care

4 Benefits of Interoperability in Healthcare

When it comes to digital health, few terms are as buzzy as “interoperability”. It’s an awkward word to say, but what does interoperability actually mean?

The Health Care Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) defines interoperability in healthcare as “the ability of different information technology systems and software applications to communicate, exchange data, and use the information that has been exchanged.” To put it simply, it’s the ability to share and interpret patient information across an entire system.

Imagine the possibilities of a healthcare system where not only is patient data collected and shared between healthcare providers, but is also interpreted and presented in a way that is clear, concise, and demonstrates the cause and effect of each type treatment received by a patient. Let’s take a look at four crucial ways interoperability could improve healthcare.

Improved Efficiency

If we had to pick one way that interoperability would most greatly affect healthcare, our money would be on improving efficiency. This technology could greatly reduce the time spent by practitioners inputting and interpreting data. Rather than needing to send and receive patient data via fax or email, that data would be immediately available, also decreasing the workload on support staff. Resources typically tied up in administrative tasks could be shifted to increase focus on patient care. 

A 2017 Report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) shows about 20% of Canadians wait seven days to see their family doctor when they are sick, and about 56% of Canadians say it takes more than four weeks to see a specialist. Interoperability can reduce wait times, so patients can access timely care.

Easier Research

Interoperability can open doors to research opportunities. With vast amounts of patient information securely collected and shared, it will be easier to measure the impact of healthcare delivery on patient outcomes. 

Improved Public Health Data

Adoption of interoperable digital health technologies will allow for faster, more accurate collection and interpretation of public health data. Recognizing, tracking, and predicting the spread of contagious ailments can limit their spread, enable better preparation, and increase the effectiveness of treatment. Applying the same tactics to predict long-term health trends can create opportunities for preventative measures to be adopted on a larger scale, potentially reducing long-term healthcare costs.

Improved Programs & Services

Afterall, what is the point of collecting and interpreting all of that data if it’s not going to be used to improve the patient experience? Learning more about how healthcare is impacting patients across the entire ecosystem will shine a light on how we can most effectively improve patient experiences and outcomes.

Digital Health Week

If you’re interested in learning more about interoperability in healthcare, or digital health in general, we invite you to participate in Digital Health Week (November 13-19, 2017) and follow #ThinkDigitalHealth on Twitter.