Here’s some wisdom from Joel Spolsky on user experience (UX) design:

“In designing a UI, the very first question to ask is: who is the user? Specifically: are most users casual, occasional users, or are these users who will be spending all of their time using your program? For casual users, learnability and simplicity are more important than usability and power. By “learnability,” I mean, the ability for novices to figure out how to get tasks done rapidly. By “usability,” I mean only the ability to do tasks in a convenient and ergonomic way without making mistakes and without needing to do repetitive tasks.”

Joel was talking about designing an online discussion forum that encourages occasional users to contribute.

We asked ourselves this question when designing Feature Upvote.

Most people who contribute to one of our online suggestion boards are casual, occasional users. And so we optimise for learnability and simplicity.

Most times, when someone wants to suggest an improvement to your product, they are encountering your feedback management system for the first — and possibly only — time. Anything that interferes with their ability as a casual user to contribute will destroy their motivation. When I say “destroy”, I absolutely mean it. A system that requires a casual user to create an account, learn your system’s rules and etiquette, and then fill in a set of required fields will receive only a small fraction of the contributions in a system designed and engineered for the casual user.

Optimising for learnability and simplicity is why Feature Upvote doesn’t require users to create accounts. It’s why Feature Upvote has just one required field when adding a suggestion (which is the suggestion’s title). It’s why we don’t force users to acknowledge they’ve searched for already existing suggestions. We use a smart search function to do this for them instead.

We’re tried to make our system even easier for your customers than sending an email to you. Because from the customer’s point of view, that’s the alternative.

A consequence of optimising for casual, occasional users is that you, as the moderator of your Feature Upvote suggestion board, need to do a bit of curating. You need to approve suggestions and comments (this can be done in bulk), merge and edit suggestions and comments that you think need a bit of help, and give suggestions a status, like ‘under consideration’ or ‘planned’.

The result of this approach is that even our customers with small user bases get a healthy amount of feature requests.

Do you like the sound of an online suggestion board? Then please try us our for free, no sales call or credit card needed.