In the ever-evolving world of product development, one principle stands out as a beacon of wisdom: “dogfooding”. My leaders insisted on it about 14 years ago when I started in product. My leaders and I cannot stop bringing this topic up every time we talk to our product team members.
What is Dogfooding?
Dogfooding is the practice of using your own product or service to identify flaws, improve features, and gain a deeper understanding of the user experience.
In this blog post, we’ll explore why dogfooding your product is not just a good idea but an essential strategy for any successful business.
Benefits of Dogfooding
1. Real-World Feedback
When you use your product in real-life scenarios, you gain invaluable insights that may not be apparent through conventional testing methods. By stepping into the shoes of your customers, you experience firsthand the challenges they may encounter. This direct experience allows you to identify pain points, bugs, or usability issues that might otherwise go unnoticed.
All Rently employees are encouraged to use Rently products at their homes every day so that they experience firsthand what their customers go through. Here’s my front door with the new Smart Bolt lock (my recent favorite Rently product)
2. Quick and Continuous Improvement
Dogfooding fosters a culture of ongoing refinement. Have you ever worked with that one team member who’s always eager to report bugs? Their secret sauce for spotting these issues is simple: they invest time in hands-on product testing. When you, whether you’re a developer or a product manager, interact with your product daily, you’re far more likely to pinpoint areas that could use some polish. This empowers you, as the product manager, to swiftly address areas in need of improvement.
Let’s take those pesky UI bugs as an example—those irritating moments when a button seems to require two clicks for action without any apparent reason. If you’ve personally tested and encountered this annoyance, you’ll be eager to snatch up the low-hanging fruit by promptly fixing the bug. It’s all about enhancing the user experience. Your firsthand experience as a user becomes a driving force behind these improvements.
3. Builds Empathy
One of the first things I was told when I joined Rently was to go to our Warehouse and process some orders. In my first month, I was also sent to an installation site to understand our clients’ onboarding experience. Using your own product fosters empathy towards your customers. It encourages you to understand their frustrations, needs, and desires, which can be a powerful motivator for enhancing your product. This empathy-driven approach often results in a more user-centric and customer-focused development process.
Bob Iger, CEO of Disney, writes in his book The Ride of a Lifetime (strongly recommend you to read it if you haven’t already) about an incident that happened when he was visiting his friend Steve Jobs at the Apple Labs.
On one occasion, Steve asked Bob to put his ear down next to a port. Steve was holding a cord with a magnetic DC connector. (If you’re an Apple fan, you might recognize this as the MacBook MagSafe charger where the cord just gets sucked into the port.)
“Listen to this”, he told Bob.
Then he put the connector in. Click.
Then out. Click.
In. Click. Then out. Click.
“Yes?”, Bob asked, waiting for something to happen.
And Steve goes: “Don’t you just love that sound?”
The sound, as he explained to Bob, tells the user that the connection has been made. “It’s convenient. You know. You don’t even have to think twice. ‘Is this in? Will it charge?’ Of course, it’s charging. I heard the sound!”
That my friend is Empathy!
4. Confidence and Credibility
Dogfooding your product not only helps you improve it but also instills confidence in your team and stakeholders. When you can confidently say, “We use this product ourselves,” it demonstrates a belief in your offering’s value and quality, boosting your credibility in the eyes of potential customers.
In conclusion, dogfooding your product is not just a buzzword; it’s a strategic approach that can transform your product development process. It empowers you to create better, more user-centric products, fosters a culture of continuous improvement, and enhances your credibility in the market. So, whether you’re building software, designing gadgets, or offering services, don’t underestimate the power of dogfooding – it’s a recipe for success in the world of product development.