Early functional reviews: How to combine quality code and great user experience

When you build products, it is important to work with a customer-first mindset. You shouldn’t focus only on high code quality. Different tools allow product managers (PM) to bring in the user perspective. These tools speed up the time to market and save resources. In this article, we will show you two of these tools!

Not so hasty! Before we can show you the tools, we need to explain the problem first! So let’s start with a hypothesis:

Modern development flows enable the production of the best code. But you often lose the user perspective along the way.

Do not misunderstand. We are fans of Pull Request Reviews, SCRUM, etc.  But we often notice that the user experience (UX) takes more and more of a back seat during development. The user might be the focus during early development stages like feature prioritization and issue writing. Throughout the implementation, high-quality code becomes the gold standard. That procedure doesn’t just apply to indie builders. Even large companies lose sight of the UX: Just yesterday Daniel set up a new PayPal account and received 7 different confirmation mails. From such a company with great code quality, you would expect a better UX. 

To explain the problem in more detail, let’s take a closer look at:

The development process in a nutshell

  1. The PMs’ job is to investigate the users’ needs and problems.
  2. Based on this, he has to develop new features and rank them according to the value for the users.
  3. He must break the feature down into issues or user stories
  4. Then the developers take up the issues and implement them. 
  5. Then the code is tested and receives technical reviews.
  6. Developers merge the code. Now it is available in the staging or preview environment.
  7. After testing, you can release the new features.

With phase 4. potential problems start. During implementation, people often only optimize for the technical reviews to get high-quality code. However, functional verification should be equally important! The thing is: The user doesn’t care about the code quality in the first place. What counts is the ease of use. 

That’s the reason you need someone who tests the new feature from the customers’ perspective during development.

PMs’ have to put on customers’ shoes!

Haters might now counter: You have a staging or preview environment to do these kinds of functional tests in modern software development. That’s true. But it is a waste of resources if you do such a review at a late stage when many technical review iterations have already been conducted.

Fortunately, there is a better way to do the functional review earlier. Some tools allow you to stay in the shoes of the user all along the way.

May I present you: tool-supported early functional reviews

With these tools, it’s like having a real user sitting next to the developers who gives early feedback. Yet without the immense overhead that such an approach would cause.

With storybook you…

  • have all the frontend components used in the application in one place. 
  • can test and review the components very easily and intuitively.
  • do not need the PM to run a complete dev setup.
  • can emulate different screen sizes and devices to enhance review quality.

A justified objection here: Emulating different devices oftentimes doesn’t work perfectly fine. For example, some bugs on an actual mobile phone cannot be prevented, because they are not visible in storybook.

With ngrok you can…

  • build a tunnel to your local host via a dedicated link. 
  • easily access with any device (e.g., mobile phone) to check the application before merging any code on the actual device with the link. 

Ok, ok, a little confession: You need to run the feature locally on your device to use the tool. However, with a step-based guide, the setup is not difficult. It is easily achievable without the need to write a single line of code.

Bottom line

To sum it up: easy usage makes the tools so great. With simple commands in the terminal, everyone can use them. These tools are not limited to the tech-savvy PMs’ only. They allow the PM to review features very early in the development process. You don’t need a heavy tech setup, and you save valuable resources. Last but not least, the tools help to ensure a great experience for actual users.