Image via WikipediaLogging into your service as a new user with nothing in the system is crucial. I cannot recommend this enough. I have been using and demoing services for years and whenever I see a demo there is always a service that is setup and maintained by someone that uses the service everyday – for many hours.
The reality is that when a new user signs up for your service they will not be putting in the same time or energy. To avoid user churn my recommendation is to login to your service or product and check things out from a new user perspective. The benefit is that you will see immediate pain points that could be driving users away.
The goal, in most cases, is to have a problem solved by your system and people using your service. Since most people on the system will not be “power users” it is essential to get the perspective of someone who has never come by before.
I have always been on the fence about focus groups and user testing, as they are rarely done right – but sometimes sitting behind someone using your service for the first time can be very valuable.
Next time you want to brainstorm, fill out feature requests, or discuss add-ons – take a step back and watch someone use your site for the very first time and see what happens. If you do not get action items from that exercise let me know 😉