Eating Dogfood, and learning to like it.

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  Recently I have been eating dog food.

I found it had a frustrating first taste, but was nourishing in the end.

Let me explain.

The expression ‘Dogfood’ generally refers to a scenario when a company uses its own product. ‘Dogfooding' is a way for a company to demonstrate confidence in its own product and from a UX perspective to test the usability of the product. 

In my UX team I have the good fortune of having members that work with documenting the products and creating education courses we offer for these products. They are involved in the design process and document the product as changes are made.

During the documentation process, they need to take the perspective of the user and explain how things work. 

Or not.

Recently, after doing a very large change to a software product we were in the process of preparing a training course and it became obvious that there were some serious inconsistencies in the user flows. After being faced with these misses, the team was able to make some new designs and some fundamental improvements to the interface that ultimately lead to a much better product. Although this process was painful (bruised ego) I stood back and tried to learn from this. I found it rewarding in a couple of ways:

Early Testing -

We try to develop training courses shortly after or when significant changes to the product are made.  If you have ever had to give a course on a subject you know you are required to know your subject matter very well. If you dont, you really cant explain it someone else. In this case, the exposure to trainers and other ‘super user’  users that are far more crtitical then more typical users provided some very good testing early on.

Credibility - 

Lets face it, Dogfooding also builds credibility with your customers: it shows the world that the company stands behind what it makes and what it does. It is the equivalent of ‘putting your money where your mouth. I also think this is a very important quality for a design team to have.

Sympathy -

By using your own product you gain common experiences with your customers. This allows designers to see the world through their eyes which is the only world that really matters. The added benefit of working with trainers is that you also see the product through there ‘pedagogical eyes’. After all, if if you cant explain a product that is supposed to be  designed well, there is more work to do.

I am very glad to have documentation and training persons involved in my UX team and that this type of is a regular part of the design process. Furthermore  if you can get used to the taste, I view 'Dogfooding' as a valuable complement to User Research in developing a better understanding of how the user perceives your product.

Thanks Martin !