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3 Ways Engineers Can Care for Their Users

Shadi Rostami SVP of Engineering, Amplitude

In every market, especially during a downturn, it is critical to retain, if not grow, your existing user base. Retention is one challenge; growth is another.

But an excellent in-product experience is just one part of the equation. Users are human. Difficult economies mean that complex and stressful decisions arise for them, too. Most users have their own tech stack under the microscope and are operating with a smaller budget.

Because of this, providing users with top-of-the-line product experiences is paramount to demonstrating the value of their investment. Users need guidance, empathy, and a white-glove experience. But how can teams lean in to the user experience (UX) in order to improve it? The best way to drive meaningful outcomes for your users is to take a holistic approach to getting to know the user—and engineers need to be a part of that process. Here’s how to get started.

Talk to the User

As engineers, it is critical that we demonstrate empathy for our users and paying users. To create a positive UX, therefore, engineering teams themselves should establish a direct line of communication with the user.

Yes, engineering. Not just product, user-success, or account-management teams. Your engineering team should join calls with users on a monthly, if not weekly, basis. When engineers directly interface with product users, they instantly get a better understanding of the challenge at hand—becoming well versed in users' goals and desired outcomes. Access to this knowledge is empowering for engineers on all levels. They can understand the "why" behind a goal and iterate more quickly to reach the desired product outcome.

Beyond the technical aspect, building a direct relationship between engineer and user creates greater trust and accountability between the two groups.

Become the User

In addition to ongoing user-feedback meetings, another way to create user centricity across your team is to put yourself in your users' shoes. Testing and evaluating your product through internal use is known as "eating your own dogfood," and its value cannot be understated.

Engineering teams sometimes imagine the best-case scenario when building an integration or product—so "dogfooding" helps them experience the various ways in which things could potentially go wrong or where more value could exist.

By using your own solutions, you witness the UX firsthand. This practice brings to the surface facts such as where the product is running optimally, where there may be interoperability breakdowns or other bugs, and where opportunities for new or enhanced features may exist. As such, you can understand your user experience much better—identifying user pain points and areas where improvement can be made.

Talk and Think About the User

Creating a user-centric engineering team takes time and practice. There will be many instances when engineers will want to be heads down with the technology and the processes that they have come to know—but keeping your engineering teams behind the scenes is a mistake. The days of the engineer who ships code and moves onto the next project are gone

Just as engineers can and must learn from users and other stakeholders, they can and should share their own learning through cross-collaboration. For instance, when dogfooding and/or speaking with users, engineering teams may identify new or important use cases. As such, they should share those with the marketing team or other teams to promote externally and support demand generation. And by learning to identify and think about these use cases, engineers themselves will become more user-focused.

Overall, the best thing that engineering can do to improve UX is to connect with the people they are building for and make sure everything that the engineers work toward benefits them.

The age of the user-obsessed engineer and developer has arrived. Lean into it. Your team, your users, and your organization will be better for it.

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