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Product launch and user testing advice

I am managing the launch of an MVP of a personal investment product with a social impact component. I have two questions for Elpha PMs and founders:

1) I was wondering if there is a product launch checklist for startups somewhere you found helpful. I googled this and found some very general "tips" but nothing step-by-step include how to manage beta users, flows to focus on during the first few months, for example, I figured sign-up should be my first focus for research and testing assumptions among beta users, but what else? what critical steps am I missing? Maybe there are also some good books you like on this subject.

2) Do you have any recommendations for user testing platforms? I asked some UX researchers in my network and they mentioned UserTesting but perhaps there are better ones out there (that hopefully come with a free trial too, given the startup budget). If we have to be even more scrappy, is it a bad idea to ask partipants to record their own screens, for example? what measures can I take to protect their private information during user testing?

Hi! Due to budget constraints, you should also consider asking those in your network to test the product. I would compile a list of tasks to be performed and a set of feedback questions to ask them afterward. Instead of recording them, consider watching them perform these tasks via a Zoom meeting. That way, their privacy is maintained and your are able to get real time feedback from expressions and frustrations. Hope this helps a bit!
How exciting! When you launch your app or signup landing page, something like FullStory could be helpful for you to watch traffic to your app and see how real users behave in your app. It's super expensive for businesses ($$$$$) but they do have a free plan you can use to start and a startup scholarship option. More info here: https://www.fullstory.com/signup/?freemium and here: https://www.fullstory.com/startup/For sourcing candidates for research interviews (assessing product market fit, learning more about potential customer segments) I've been super happy with User Interviews: https://www.userinterviews.com/ You can get a research project going on there in an afternoon for relatively affordable $$$ fees.When you're getting started, you may be able to manage your beta users with something like a Notion database as a lightweight CRM but if you're using any type of email system like Mailchimp or HubSpot, those tools tend to come with CRM features you can use to tag your beta users and keep track of their stages. Early on, more than optimizing sign-ups or the app experience, I'd focus on making sure you understand your differentiation and what you're providing to your customers. Who are you helping? What makes your product special compared to what's out there on the market today? What pain point does it solve? No amount of optimization of your app will save you if the proposition itself isn't compelling. You can test for that even with some messaging on a website or a slide deck with mock-ups of the type of product you'd want to build.Good luck!!
My last product job was also somewhere "scrappy", so I managed all the user testing in a spreadsheet (one for each round of testing) instead of paying for a platform. I dug around a bit, and I think this is the place I got the template that I riffed off of: https://www.userfocus.co.uk/resources/datalogger.htmlIt's sort of old school Excel over-the-top-ness, so I made a streamlined non-macro version that also incorporated a sheet for some general planning stuff based on that same guy's usability test plan PDF: https://medium.com/@userfocus/the-1-page-usability-test-plan-dbc8c3d7fb54I also added a sheet to the front that tracked all of the issues (bugs, feature suggestions, etc.) that might need dev work, so that it was all in one place for the tech lead and I to discuss. I went through all the notes and added letter codes to each topic someone talked about, and then that became issue A, issue B, etc. in the issue tracker. Then I could color code it by priority or add other labels about what kind of fix it was, which made it really easy to, for example, cut and paste the three "solved by better documentation" issues into an email to the customer success person. And if all of that is still more overhead than you need, then really this kind of spreadsheet is just a super bulked out version of the old school "rainbow spreadsheet" concept described here (and elsewhere): https://userresearch.blog.gov.uk/2019/09/13/how-a-spreadsheet-can-make-usability-analysis-faster-and-easier/ Sigh. I love spreadsheets. :) I also side with the other commenter who suggested watching them perform tasks live over a Zoom meeting. That worked out pretty well for me the vast majority of the time. But I was also working at a small scale where it was easy to manage our pool of testers with spreadsheets and one-on-ones. :) You might need something more automated as you scale.
Congrats on the upcoming launch! I recently heard about this Go to Market tool, which might be helpful? https://www.haveignition.com/UserTesting is the best known platform, but this is something you can do with a tool like FullStory (Melanie has links in her comment). You can also just have a Prod Manager or UX person conduct "ride alongs" - you record a session where a user just clicks around your product. If you're in the healthtech space or have similar concerns with PII or PHI, this gets much trickier and you might be better off with tagging events in Amplitude (which has a free tier) and using that.