There is an article at Fast Co. Design that I almost entirely disagree with. The premise is that a company needs a good vision for a product, and they don’t need to gather user feedback.
That’s a big call. When Apple developed the iPhone, they no doubt had a clear vision. If they had asked the users of existing phones, what they’d respond with would be based on their experiences with the current range of phones – and Apple definitely wanted to do something different. But even so, they probably asked people for feedback on their new ideas.
In fact, I know they do. Here’s Apple’s feedback page. Anecdotal evidence from over the years tells me that lots and lots of small small software quirks were ironed out after people complained about them (my personal favourite – I frequently hit Command + Q when I meant Command + W to close a tab in Safari. Eventually Apple fixed this with a confirmation box, preventing the loss of countless tabs).
Here’s an article which describes Tim Cook saying that they consider all feedback if they get enough of it, so I don’t accept that Apple doesn’t consider user feedback – in fact I think they depend heavily on it.
Having said that, if you open the door to everybody’s crazy ideas, you end up with Homers Car. It would be suicidal to build something based purely on what the user requested. Here’s a quote from Steve Jobs (RIP):
“It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
[BusinessWeek, May 25, 1998]
So the key, in my opinion, is to have a clear vision about what you’re looking for, and to ask the right questions. Not everybody’s ideas can be catered for, and they can be balanced against the vision.
You take a vision – a gigantic leap that is based on a strongly held conviction – and tune it with user feedback.
Here’s the article, the comments also seem to disagree with the main points too.