Friction Log in SaaS: Step-by-Step Guide For Product Managers
Are you using a friction log to track and prioritize what to improve in your product?
In this guide, our aim is to help savvy product managers understand what friction logs are, where you might use them, and how to create them.
Let’s dive in!
- A friction log is a document capturing the challenges and frustrations a customer might face using your SaaS.
- Product friction describes anything that causes your users difficulty. You can break it down into two major categories: function and opportunity friction.
- Function friction is primarily about users being blocked from reaching their product goals because of an error, poor UX, or other factors.
- Opportunity friction is driven by the gap between what a user expects to be able to do, and the functionality of your product as it stands.
- Not all friction is bad. Introducing it can be a sensible design decision – think of it as ‘friction with a purpose’.
- Product managers should use friction logs for a number of reasons: to improve activation and boost growth, to build empathy and see things from the user’s perspective, to rapidly identify bugs to triage, and to disseminate information.
- The more frequently logs are created, the sooner you’ll see friction points discovered. You should particularly look at friction logs before planning work, when you’re focused on growth, or just after major product updates.
- Friction logs can be created by the whole team. The more collaborative the process, the more effective it’ll be.
- How do you create friction logs? First, you need to decide which area of your product to focus on (use data to guide your decision). Next, make sure to include relevant context. Use a color-coded system for a handy visual aid. Set the example by writing the first friction log yourself.
- When it comes to tools, think about the process of creating friction logs in two sections: identifying problem areas (products like Userpilot are extremely helpful here), and creating/sharing the log itself.
What is a friction log?
A friction log is a document that captures a list of challenges, difficulties, or frustrations a customer might encounter using your product.
What is product friction in SaaS?
Put simply, product friction describes anything that causes your users difficulty when using your SaaS.
There’s no better way of understanding usability than digging into where friction occurs across the entire user experience. That’ll give you the best chance to surface actionable steps to improve things.
What are the two high-level types of friction?
Now we’ve covered the core concept of friction, let’s explore two of the major categories.
Is there anything more frustrating than failing to hit your target?
This sort of friction is about exactly that: things that stop your user from achieving their goals. That could be being greeted with an unfamiliar error message, struggling to complete a task, or not being able to find help. These are all examples of function friction.
Let’s say you run a photo editing product, and a customer is having a great time tweaking and customizing their pics. All of a sudden, they realize they can’t export the image to the right file type!
Opportunity friction is subtly different from function friction. It describes the gap between what your users want to achieve in a workflow and the current capabilities of your SaaS.
Positive vs negative friction
Not all friction is bad.
Introducing it can be a sensible design decision – think of it as ‘friction with a purpose’.
That might mean slowing down the sign-up process to make sure users are absorbing all the relevant information.
What about negative friction, then?
Errors, bugs, delays, a confusing UI – any sort of needless frustration. That doesn’t get users invested in your SaaS in any way, shape, or form.
You want to reduce friction that fits this category as much as possible. But to do that, you need to understand which bits of your production are causing friction in the first place.
Why should product managers use friction logs?
The best product managers have a deep understanding of customer needs – and friction logs are an incredibly powerful tool for building that sort of user empathy.
Improve product activation and drive growth
Friction logs provide a factual basis to cut through the noise and prioritize effectively by highlighting areas to improve.
What does that look like in practice? You could identify a series of key journeys – signup, activation, referral, or checkout to name a few. Then, create friction logs for distinct parts of those journeys.
Those logs will quickly drive out a roadmap of areas to improve.
See the product from the user’s perspective
Friction logs help you step out of the role of a SaaS owner, product manager, or developer… and into the world of a customer.
By working through challenges from their perspective, you will very quickly start to build a healthy level of user empathy. The role of the developer advocate is increasingly important in the world of SaaS, as organizations search for ways of improving user engagement.
Identify and fix bugs in the product
A friction log can help you recreate the issues raised by customers, putting you in the best possible position to spot bugs.
- Then, you can determine the best course of action: whether that means sharing your insight with the support team or working with your developers to prioritize improvements.
Remember to send a release note out as soon as you’ve completed the fix: those sorts of product updates will make a big difference to your customers.
Share information across multiple teams
A friction log is a valuable store of information. It’s a lightweight way to create, document, and share insight both within and across teams.
They ensure everyone has access to a view of friction points across the entire user journey, which means:
- Product managers can organize their roadmaps to prioritize enhancements and improvements.
- The customer success team knows exactly how to help users overcome challenges in the meantime.
- Developers can implement fixes faster.
Identify improvement opportunities across the entire user experience
Creating friction logs is an excellent way to identify opportunities to improve things. Focus on key problem areas, brainstorm a range of ideas, and quickly implement them to understand if they help address product friction or not.
Working in an agile way enables you to move forward quickly with minimal assumptions.
How often should you do friction logs?
We’ve established the important role friction logs can play for any SaaS. But how frequently should you be looking at adding to your logs?
It’s important to think about revisiting friction logs as a continual process – not a one-and-done activity.
As your product evolves and changes, you’ll inevitably introduce new points of friction. You need to map out and understand these areas so you can inform future development, building as much empathy with your users as possible.
With that being said, there are a few key phases where doing a friction log can be particularly impactful:
- Ahead of sprint planning. Friction logs can be valuable sources of information for indicating areas that need improvement.
- After product updates or enhancements. Friction logs will help you understand how effectively a redesign is working.
- When focusing on growth, friction logs help focus the the teams attention around clearly organized themes.
- When you have a change of staff, a friction log can be used to upskill and embed knowledge about your product for new starters.
Who is responsible for doing friction logs?
Friction logs aren’t technical documents, which means anyone who uses your product or service can create them.
While typically Product, Growth, UX and Design teams take the lead on owning and maintaining logs, the burden shouldn’t fall completely on their shoulders. Getting your technical team members involved is a fantastic way of building developer advocacy.
You don’t need to be massively experienced to create a friction log.
In fact, new hires are perfect candidates. Why? Because they’re able to more effectively spot issues or gaps others in the team might gloss over. It’s also a great way of teaching them about the product.
The more collaborative the process, the more effective your friction logs will be.
How to create friction logs
In this section of the article, we’re going to break down the specific, actionable steps necessary to build up friction logs.
Friction logging step 1: Decide which part of the product you want to test
First things first, you need to hone in on a specific area. A good way of simplifying your decision is focusing on ‘aha moments‘ because identifying and overcoming friction points in these areas is your fastest route to delivering value.
You might also get ideas from looking at user feedback, whether that’s from a new launch, general customer satisfaction scores, or direct feedback to your customer success team.
Here’s an example: you could collect NPS survey responses, apply relevant tags, then look to visualize the data to identify areas causing challenges and impacting user loyalty.
Friction logging step 2: Include details on the friction log template
Make sure to include relevant context, such as the use case, the environment, or the features in question. It’s a critical part of any good friction log.
Remember that ideally, you want your friction logs to follow the same template. That makes them easy for anyone in the organization to pick up and understand.
Having your friction logs structured similarly also makes them easier to write.
Friction logging step 3: Set a color-coded system
Sometimes, more detail isn’t the answer. A simple color code can add a huge amount of value to your friction logs by enabling readers to quickly determine the type of issue they’re facing.
The example below is a nice, clear color-coded system you might want to recreate.
Friction logging step 4: Do the first friction log yourself
Remember earlier in the article, where we discussed that friction logs weren’t technical documents? A friction log template can help you get the structure right.
You should strike a balance of being warm, friendly, accessible, and conversational including enough relevant detail to be practical.
By writing the first friction log yourself, you help build better working practices with your team. Ultimately, that’s going to help everyone build a better understanding of friction areas and the experience of users encountering them.
Friction logging step 5: Use user behavioral segmentation to identify the best users
It’s important to understand the different ways people interact with your SaaS. Then, you can figure out the most effective way to engage them.
- Promoters – they have an excellent understanding of your product and are more willing than others to test new features and identify problem areas.
- For users who’ve abandoned a feature – understanding their pain points is incredibly useful for helping to prevent others from leaving.
- Focused users – customers who only use a specific feature (or group of features) in your product.
Each of these groups has a different perspective to offer. With user segmentation, you can target your approach and encourage them to create friction logs themselves.
How does that work in practice?
It’s simple to identify and build out different segments based on multiple user behaviors with Userpilot.
From there, you can trigger an in-app message asking them to participate. You might want to use a slideout, banner, or modal depending on their whereabouts in the journey.
Given how valuable (and time-consuming for the user) creating friction logs can be, consider offering incentives to encourage them.
Useful tools for getting started with friction logging
You have a range of choices at your disposal when it comes to friction logging – the marketplace is busy and dynamic. It’s useful to think of splitting the process into two distinct parts:
- Figuring out where the friction lies in your SaaS
- Creating, sharing, and using friction logs that address those areas
In this section of the article, we’ll explore tools to help you tackle both.
Tools for identifying friction log opportunities
This powerful tool has a range of features to help you understand where problem areas can be found. Micro surveys are a particularly effective way of capturing user feedback, digging deeper into user sentiment, and building empathy.
Hotjar can help you build a sense of how users interact with various screens using heatmaps and screen recording. Watching how a user interacts with your product is a great way of figuring out key behavioral insights.
Another effective tool to consider is Fullstory, an analytics tool that combines quantitative and qualitative data to shed light on user behavior. That combination means you can quickly identify bugs, but also focus on areas that might not be technically ‘broken’ – but just don’t work for users.
Tools for creating and sharing friction logs
Friction logs should be lightweight, easy to maintain and update, and shareable. Different tools give you different options, and we’ll explore some of those below.
- Google Docs. To prioritize speed and simplicity, Google Docs is your friend. You can set up pre-built templates to make sure your logs are similarly structured. An added bonus is the ability to have multiple editors collaborating at once.
- Notion. For many SaaS companies, Notion is their preferred solution for internal documentation – from onboarding to FAQs to HR policy. It’s easy to spin up a clean-looking microsite with a range of customizable templates to choose from.
- Loom. Primarily a video-first platform, Loom is also a great resource to consider for creating engaging friction logs that help users physically see where problems are occurring. Being able to pause, playback and recreate problems is especially useful for the development team.
- Slack. Although most people think of Slack as a communication tool, it’s a pragmatic place to create, store, and share logs with different members of the team quickly. Combined with the ‘huddle’ feature, many SaaS owners will see the benefit of using Slack for more than just messaging.
We’ve explored what friction logs are, the important role they can play in shining a spotlight on frustrating, tricky-to-use parts of your product, and the best ways to build them.
You’re now equipped with a useful framework to reduce friction for your users, unlock value sooner, and ultimately make it easier for your team to prioritize and solve problems.
So get out there, and put what you’ve learned to practice!
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