Providing Feedback Helps Companies that Provide Free Design Tools

The World Wide Web has been available for 30 years. Over those decades, the ease-of-access to free tools and software on the internet has kept pace with Moore’s Law. Regardless of industry or position, there is an online tool purporting they can make your job or life easier. Many companies even offer free tools that people use, but nobody ever says they love or hate a product until it’s gone.

There must be a justification for the creation and upkeep of free tools and it’s not easy to draw a straight line between the tool and hard facts. My boss asked me the other day, “what’s the return on investment (ROI) on all the dollars we spend to make Scheme-it happen?” I often have a hard time justifying resources with hard evidence like associated sales dollars and ROI. It’s very hard to say that a customer has made a decision based on a tool that your company is utilizing. I mean, how can you actually track somebody’s thoughts or actions that you don’t know are happening? (If you know how to do this please share.)

Instead, there is talk about increased traffic and improved metrics but not hard facts about helping people make decisions. Clearly there is value in supporting tools, just ask anybody who uses a tool that saves them time or creates efficiency. So how do marketers justify these tools? The strongest answer is feedback from the users—both good and bad feedback.

Unfortunately, the truth doesn’t come out until that defining moment you hope will never happen, but it does… when you are forced to take away the tool. Not by choice, but by changes in business or procedures or a decision that was made several years ago. Then you get to see the real value that you provided to customers through those tools. Customers come out of the woodwork, so to speak, and let you know how valuable those tools really are for them. They, “can’t live without them” and, “there is so much money riding on the tool” they just lost. The, “you must make changes so our business doesn’t fail” or, “we’re going to your competitor” type of comments really hurt, but still show how much those customers appreciate the tools you provide.

So, what’s my point here? Simple feedback. Please take a moment and share your thoughts with those companies who offer you a tool that somehow makes your life better. Be it a problem solver, a complex design tool, or even a simple list manager that saves you time and effort. Often the small comments you make today can let companies know how valuable that little tool really is. It might save you some headache down the road!

About this author

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Jeremy Purcell is the Program Manager for Digital Design Tools and is responsible for engaging tool providers and developing the strategy on design assets. He joined Digi-Key in 2006 and has worked as a Senior Applications Engineer on several campaigns around information sharing with the customer base and customer engagement inside the business. Jeremy holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from North Dakota State University in Fargo, ND. He enjoys spending a couple of weeks each summer tinkering and running steam traction engines and the rest of the year thinking about them.

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