Reinventing PowerOne #5: Listening

This is the fifth in a series of articles discussing the reinvention of the award-winning calculator, PowerOne. Read the entire series here.

This has been a brutal month emotionally. I was dying for feedback, desperately looking for unbridled response. And unbridled response I received. My customers told me exactly what they don’t like about the new version, in no uncertain terms.

Some were gentle and some less so. Some shared their thoughts privately and some used App Store reviews to relay their displeasure.

What has been hard is separating out the exhaustion and ego to listen to them tell me how they feel. It wasn’t always easy but I did my best to listen and tease out real concerns from the inevitable “it’s just different” responses.

Some customers don’t like where we are going. The biggest customer complaint has been accounts. What I’ve heard is 1) a calculator doesn’t need accounts; and 2) I don’t want to create another account. We added accounts so we could fulfill functionality we felt was missing: a web version and syncing. I don’t regret that decision, although I do regret doing a poor job of explaining it at the point of decision. I’ve rectified that now by offering information about why accounts when confronted with the create account option in the app.

Some problems were easy to spot and solve. Bugs, assuming we can reproduce them, is one such example. A number of customers complained about missing calculator functionality as well. Rick and I were able to make adjustments and add these back in. A number of customers also complained about a horribly designed feature – amortization tables. In this case it was one I suspected would come up and did. I shipped something I was embarrassed about, listened to customers complain about its poor implementation, then adjusted quickly.

Those issues were ones I anticipated. There was another I didn’t. A number of customers complained about the calculator itself. I hated the old one as in order to perform anything other than basic math you had to skip around the screen:

When I designed the new one, I focused on information density. You now have everything available to you on one screen!

Except… I left behind simplicity. Some of my customers let me know in no uncertain terms that the new one was too dense. Given this feedback we were able to default to a simple option with quick access to history and a setting to show it permanently:

All of these changes required my customers to say something.

In some cases, however, we didn’t rely on the customer saying anything to us at all. Instead, we engineered PowerOne to give us feedback automatically. Those who upgraded had an option to import their templates from the old app. This process told us any templates they were using in the old app that weren’t available in the new one. This feedback helped us prioritize templates. We’ve now added over 300 templates to the library for markets ranging from finance and investing, real estate, construction, aviation, math, science and engineering.

The key to many of these is that our customers weren’t able to voice exactly how the problem should be resolved. Instead I had to work to tease out the problem then figure out a solution that would work. Customers are very good at understanding what they liked before and what doesn’t work for them now. They are not so good at seeing the future.

These changes are now available in version 5.1.