Your users support your existence, and dictate the changing shape of your business with their latest needs and wants. If your users wanted your product to come in a red style, you’d make a red style. If they think your prices are too high, you’d lower them as much as you could. There are many things that users can tell you—for example, if you read your business’s online reviews or even ask consumers directly, you can probably learn things like your product having a short shelf life, or your brand not offering enough special deals.
These are “easy problems” that can be pointed out by users and fixed by you, the entrepreneur. Unfortunately, even if you had a select segment of your user base to give feedback on your products and services, there would be some things that they wouldn’t be able to tell you. Maybe they don’t understand what’s wrong, or maybe they just can’t articulate it, but either way, it’s a problem that doesn’t explicitly reveal itself—often until it’s too late.
Take notice of these three common problems users would love to be able to tell you, but simply aren’t able for one reason or another:
Content can suffer from a lot of problems, but not being interesting is probably the most vague and most damaging problem—and of course, it’s also the hardest to identify. You can pinpoint when your content is misleading, as you’ll inspire hordes of angry commenters. You can tell when your content is drawing people in, but failing to keep them around, because you’ll have visitors but no comments at all. But what if you aren’t getting any traction at any part of the process?
Nobody will go out of their way to tell you “your headline was well-written, but it didn’t seem relevant to me right now, so I didn’t click on it.” Most people won’t even go through this thought process—they’ll just move on, not thinking anything of it. Your headlines will sink into a bottomless pit of white noise, and you won’t be able to recover unless you can make a positive change.
The real trouble starts when you realize that what’s “interesting” to one user may not be interesting to another. For example, different brands may characterize “interesting” as entertaining, or informative, or communicative. All you really need to do is get people clicking and reading, and the best way to do that if you don’t know the problem is by experimenting. Try all kinds of different subjects, titles, and formats to see what sticks and what doesn’t. If you run trials with sufficient depth, you should eventually find a niche that resonates with the majority of your users.
Once your users are onsite, that’s not the end of the story. People can leave for a lot of reasons—they may become irritated with an ad, or your site might load too slowly, and if you conduct serious user testing, you can easily uncover these pain points. You might even experience them yourself if you run a test on your own system. But what happens if your users don’t like your site design in general, but don’t know what about it they don’t like?
This is a major problem, and most people won’t be able to articulate their sentiments around it. You might be able to tell the problem by an exceptionally high bounce rate and low conversion rate, but there still may be residual user resentment even if these metrics are in order.
Going about a fix can also be difficult, but as with the indifferent content problem, the solution relies on experimentation. Try implementing a handful of new design changes, one by one, and conduct A/B based user tests to see which changes perform better than the default standard. Gradually, keep the features that seem to work better aesthetically for your audience and weed out the ones that create problems.
Generally, users are adept at identifying what they don’t like. If a store is clunky, they’ll say so. If images aren’t professional looking, they’ll say so. What users are bad at is identifying things they don’t know they’re missing. For example, if your checkout process has no shipping estimation feature, users may feel irritated without ever knowing that the lack of shipping information is what’s causing that irritation. Because they can’t identify the problem, you have no clear path to a viable solution.
This is one of the worst problems to have, because experimentation alone can’t solve it. Instead, you have to spend extra time creatively brainstorming for potential new features that you can develop. In this scenario, a bit of competitive research can help get your juices flowing—what are similar companies doing, and how are they doing it? What are dissimilar companies with similar platforms doing that you can adopt for your industry? If you implement a function that your users have been missing, you’ll know almost immediately.
Because your users will likely never tell you these things, it’s up to you to pay attention to them and take corrective action as soon as possible. Invisible problems can cause a visible and measurable impact, so put your detective cap on and get to work before it’s too late.