Don't wait to dive into the feedback pool.
Don't do three redesigns from only three pieces of internal feedback.
Don't let your product flail due to lack of feedback, the oxygen needed to keep momentum and improvement on a steady basis.
Give your product air. Free it. Cheaply and easily.
Talk to users any way you can. Social media is one of the easiest ways to do it. On their turf, on their terms. Get in person. Use Craigslist. Use the phone. Use the coffee shop. Just talk to real users in person, ideally in the environment where they might use your product. Don't fake the environment. The 5-day design sprint is a GREAT framework to start using for early stage product development.
Then get busy figuring out if you've found product/market fit...the only thing that matters.
To help with what, check out the below list of tools. This list isn't exhaustive. To consistently update all things product management (especially processes, which I'm not covering below really), I just launched Productmanagers.co. Check it out here.
Also, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the growing index of learning content for product management videos on Curiosity. We're focusing on other categories at the moment but if there are video sources we're missing please let me know!
**Update 9/16/2014** check out this list of Product Management tools on Product Hunt. It is a good list, but some I've listed below aren't on the Product Hunt list. My list is focused heavily on feedback from users, both qualitative and quantitative.
Some of the below tools are free. Some aren't.
Say to get a good toolset is $300/month. Is $300/month cheap? If you compare that to a month designing and building the wrong thing with three people at 50 hrs/week and $20/hr maybe (assuming a Ramen eating startup) you're at $12,000/month. $300 and feedback is a no brainer.
But calculate your hourly dev rate at a seed or Series A startup and you'll find that the time and rate of $300/month is insane not to be spent compared to the opportunity cost of wasting your team's time at say around $50/hr for 3 developers...before benefits you're talking around $25k/month. What's even $5k of time and tools to ensure you're building the best product?
Note, I'm not listing design apps below, just those focused on ideation and feedback loops. For that there are many product design tools here: https://www.producthunt.com/e/design-tools (One tool missing I think on that list is http://www.invisionapp.com).
For analytics set up and comparison's Andrea Klinger's blog post here covers all that.
Then go back and read this one, again from Andreas Klinger: The simplest and most important dashboard for early stage startups.
Let it set in that the earlier you are the more qualitative your feedback is going to be. Don't shy away from this fact. Buy gift cards on Amazon for people that help. Fire them off instantly via email. Be thankful it is all this easy.
- http://verifyapp.com - Great for getting static mocks in front of a lot of people quickly a few different ways. $19/month + $1 per user if you want to buy traffic. A/B test pages without ever building a site.
- http://usertesting.com - Sometimes $49 for a user to use your site (or whatever URL or link to static clickthroughs like Invisionapp for 15 mins). Get discounts buying credits.
- http://peek.usertesting.com - The free version of UserTesting. Good to start out.
- http://ethn.io - $49/month. Use it to help funnel a large net to get users for in person or more phone type feedback.
- https://clarity.fm - This tool is a way to connect over the phone with top experts in tech. Some use it for mentorship (I do as well for first contact) but I've had great success using it for feedback in certain areas of product development. Want UX feedback? Why not get a UX expert on the phone tomorrow? :) The cost is variable depending on who you talk to and how long you talk. I got great feedback from Product Hunt's Ryan Hoover himself not too long ago!
- https://usabilityhub.com - Find real users. Free, then $20 to start out. Just used once so far. Not too bad.
- https://www.google.com/insights/consumersurveys/home - Just cents to target and survey people very quickly on ideas.
- http://unbounce.com/ - Test an entire business idea in a couple hours. I often recommend this to friends with new ideas. If this stage stumps them they get a wake up call.
- http://www.producthunt.com/ - Of course! Submit your new thing and be very open and responsive when users respond with feedback of all types.
- https://www.intercom.io - $79/month to start with some minimal JS implementation. Great way to message your users. Use in conjunction with the 'first dashboard' concept from Andreas' post above. Intercom's service is awesome, by the way.
- https://mixpanel.com - Free, then quantity pricing based on users. Focus first on retention...what drives it? Amplify that. I have a list of things I'd like to see automated but it is improving and their service is great.
- http://www.google.com/analytics - Free and good for overall traffic numbers. I prefer Mixpanel for event tracking however.
- http://www.elasticsearch.org/overview/kibana/ - Free, but very feature rich and pro level and used only with elasticsearch. We're using it here at Curiosity for much more granular user analysis.
On-page and in-app testing
- https://www.optimizely.com - $17/month to start. Doesn't have heat maps. Have a good testing framework and tests or you're just slowing down page load for your users for headline testing.
- https://vwo.com - $49/month to start. Save caveat as above. Includes heat maps though.
- https://mixpanel.com - They also has some A/B testing options now. Haven't looked into them yet, but assume they're up to the quality of their other products.
- http://qualaroo.com - $63/month to start. Quick onscreen surveys to users.
- https://www.crazyegg.com - $108/year to start. Headmaps, clickmaps, scrollmaps. See where users gravitate and click.
To quickly see what your favorite companies are using to track your passive and active feedback, install https://www.ghostery.com.
Ideas and workflow management
Caveat: we print out flows on the wall and have daily standups for most communication. These below are more repositories and ways to capture conversation during remote work. Tools can't ever become excuses for poor communication. Like scrum wall better? Use it. Constantly prioritize.
- https://basecamp.com - $20/month to start. We use this as our catch all for ideas, ranking todo lists as a general roadmap so we can all track design iterations and attach qualitative feedback to them.
- https://www.pivotaltracker.com - $7/month to start. As the work moves from 'discovery to delivery' each day/week (we push to prod 5-10 times/day) we use Pivotal to track work more granularly with different states meaning different dev environments before deployment.
- http://www.cockos.com/licecap/ - Instant GIFs to share with your dev team for showing front end bugs / weird UI.
- http://www.useronboard.com/ - Good ideas for onboarding.
- http://patterntap.com/ - More UI ideas.
- http://www.uxarchive.com/ - Yet more UI ideas.
- http://buzzsumo.com/ - Target users talking about your thing. Contact them. Offer some value first before you say "hey you, give me feedback!".
Product management is many things rolled into one. This post only covers some tools. The point is, as Josh Elman so eloquently states, "Help your team (and company) ship the right product to your users". So, keep learning how to do this better and better everyday.