Suggestions are something I care very deeply about, but I know that from a user’s perspective it can seem like they’re not very often considered, or the answer is “no” far too often than it’s “yes”.
Lately, James has taken to making suggestions fairly frequently; which is great. I like having ideas thrown around, and implemented one of his suggestions, pointed out that another suggestion has been an ongoing discussion on HNZ for a while now, and had to say ‘no’ to at least one major idea. I don’t like saying no without explaining myself, but I also decided to seize the opportunity to explain what goes into a ‘no’ response most of the time. You can read my original post here, but I know that not everybody reads every suggestion topic or reply and that specific topic will be buried soon enough: so why not immortalize the process in a blog post?!
Why not, indeed. So that’s what this is!
Boiled down, when we consider a suggestion we ask three main questions:
- How hard is it to do?
This can be the most difficult question for people outside of the staff team to answer, so I don’t want it to be something that dissuades people from making suggestions. Sometimes you’ll think something is quite hard but it’s simple enough, and other times you’ll imagine something to be quite simple (because the concept is simple) but it’ll be very involved to implement.
This is also never the sole determining factor in a decision. I don’t shy away from difficult projects, but each question is considered in relationship to all the others. Our first consideration is simply getting a sense for how big of an undertaking something might be. What would it take to do it, assuming we do?
I will say, though, that it can be incredibly frustrating when users assume things about whatever they’re suggesting and how simple it really should be to just do, without having any sense for things behind the curtain, as it were.
So suggest freely, please! But also please remember that this isn’t something you can gauge, and trust us to be able to determine what a suggestion will take to make a reality.
- How useful is it? To how many people?
Plenty of ideas are neat and creative, but maybe not particularly useful. Sometimes neat things are done just for the sake of something cool being around even if nobody will ever really need it and it won’t make anybody’s life easier on the site. Once again, this will never be the sole determining factor in if we act on an idea but already you can see how these questions interact with each other. If the suggestion would be a colossal task to implement, but isn’t going to change anything tangible on the board, it doesn’t seem like a great idea to pour time and energy into something like that.
- What impact will it have on site activity?
We care about HNZ and its general health and activity, so when we make changes we need to be mindful of how it will influence the activity on the board: both positively and perhaps negatively. Sometimes a major change is suggested that we know may upset some users, and so trying to gauge what the risk of such a change is and if it’s worth doing despite that risk is important. Alternatively, some changes may promote increased activity and still others might be a net-neutral change.
Obviously this factor, too, is never the sole determining factor in the fate of a suggestion – but it is weighed against the others. Perhaps a suggestion would slightly increase activity (great!) but would be a lot of hard work for the staff to make happen – we might feel that the staff time could be better spent doing something else that might encourage user participation on the site even more.
In my original post on this matter, I provided a few tangible case-studies for applying these criteria.
First, the Quidditch System was a fairly large amount of work (and, truth be told, work is still ongoing!) and while it’s highly useful, it’s only useful to set of users with active student characters on house Quidditch teams. At this point, it would seem adding it isn’t worth the effort. But Quidditch was always very popular on the site and spurred plenty of discussion and followup RPs – this knowledge allowed us to determine that it would be worthwhile because it’d let us have Quidditch played more easily and so more often.
Even small suggestions like being able to clear more than one notification at once work well with these questions: It’s not much work, it’s pretty handy, and it won’t really impact site activity either way – so why not implement it?
These questions are by no means a law, and there’s plenty of wiggle room for considering what people just want, or what might be an interesting project for us to work on (or a new opportunity for the site to grow, even if it’s risky), but it’s been a helpful guide and I think knowing about it will help people better understand where we come from when we approach suggestion topics.
Keep your ideas coming – even if they’re not all adopted, the ones that are make it all worthwhile!