As product teams, we live for launching new features. Unfortunately, teams tend to dedicate almost all of their time to the design and development of a new feature, investing relatively little time thoroughly preparing a post-launch plan, an essential process for every new feature’s success.

Establishing a coordinated post-launch plan before your product release gives your new features a much greater chance at success. For most teams, a clearly defined release plan should include a messaging strategy to educate users, pre-determined success metrics, a feedback collection system, and a coordinated plan for iteration post-launch.

1. Announce releases to educate and collect initial feedback

Every new product release deserves its own mini launch party, which starts with an announcement to your users. Use multiple communication channels to ensure you reach your users. For marketing and SEO purposes, it’s useful to announce new features on your website or blog. These mediums also allow you to explain your product changes in greater depth. As a rule of thumb, this out-of-product communication should: 

  • Provide an in-depth description of what the new feature does, what is changing, how it works, and how it will change the user’s experience. 
  • Include visual aids like UI screenshots, a gif, or video demonstration. 
  • Give thanks/credit to any users who contributed feedback leading to the development of the new feature. It shows that you listen to your users and will encourage others to provide feedback in the future.

Even more important than this out-of-product communication is the communication delivered directly within your product’s experience. In-app announcements are highly visible, driving early engagement and feedback that your team can use to improve the experience. We also recommend using in-app announcements to drive continued user discussions that will provide early user feedback. This doesn’t need to be complex; simply including an open text comments sections alongside your announcement will suffice. 

2. Establish an early feedback collection process

Customer Support teams are often tasked with the collection of user feedback following a new feature launch. If your Support team has an established process for collecting, triaging, and sharing this feedback internally, that’s a good start. However, the reality is most Support folks aren’t actually capable or responsible for improving users’ experiences by addressing this product feedback. By routing all user feedback through Support, product owners miss a critical opportunity to extract deep insights from those conversations that are required to make product improvements. For this reason, we recommend that you unburden Support from product feedback related issues whenever possible – especially following the launch of a new feature.

Instead, collect feedback at the moment users read the announcement.

3.  Be measured in your response to initial post-launch feedback  

While early user feedback is important, it will never paint a complete picture of feature resonance. Users are notoriously protective about their digital experiences and will often respond quite negatively to any change – even if it results in a clear improvement. At Parlor, we refer to this as ‘Expectation Debt’ and try to be very aware in advance of a feature launch if negative user sentiment can be expected. If you encounter this, try not to overreact.

Remember the outrage when Instagram updated its feed to display algorithmically recommended posts instead of the most recent ones? Instagram’s attempt to provide users with more engaging and relevant content initially outraged many users. Over time, the issue became more clear: users didn’t want to miss new posts, but actually preferred a feed that displayed more relevant posts. Rather than reverting back to the original chronological feed, Instagram was thoughtful about how they reacted to the feedback, choosing instead to slightly alter the algorithm to favor more recent posts. The result: Instagram is still the platform of choice for most users.

Despite efforts to improve a product, your latest update may garner some negative feedback early on. Users can be protective over legacy functionality that they’re accustomed to, but that doesn’t mean that your update has fallen short of providing greater value. As product leaders, it is our job to sift through the impulsive responses and surface what is truly valuable. The Instagram anecdote highlights why proactive and ongoing feedback collection efforts must be established to track user sentiment over time and not rely solely on early feedback collected. 

4. Segment users into engagement cohorts for targeted, ongoing feedback

You’ll usually see the greatest volume of feedback from users’ initial exposure to a feature, but it’s certainly not the only feedback you’ll receive. Nor is it the deepest. For this reason, it’s critical to establish an ongoing system for feedback collection from users who are continually engaging with the new feature. It’s common for a feature to experience different levels of adoption across your user population. Collecting feedback from users with varying degrees of familiarity and insights into your new feature ensures you have the right inputs needed to thoughtfully evolve your feature over time. 

To gather actionable feedback on what needs improvement and how to do so, track which users engage with your feature post-launch and establish engagement thresholds to segment them into meaningful cohorts. For example, you can have a cohort of users that read the announcement but never engaged with the feature, a cohort that engaged with the feature only once, and a third power users cohort. Segmenting your users into usage pattern cohorts allows you to engage and collected feedback from users across different lifecycle stages. Doing so gives you a more thorough understanding of how your feature resonates with different cohorts, why it is/is not resonating with different cohorts, and how to iterate to ensure better outcomes, e.g. converting infrequent users of the feature into engaged users, or ensuring frequent users continue to engage.

Talk With Users Before Staring at Analytics 

Users are more than willing to provide meaningful feedback necessary to understand whether or not a new feature resonates. As a Product team, it is our job to provide users with the channels to provide the feedback and then turn it into actionable insights to drive ongoing product improvement. By establishing a coordinated effort centered around educating users and proactively collecting feedback, the insights necessary for future iteration will come naturally.