With 15 million monthly active users, 70% of whom are in the coveted market of 13-24 year olds, Canadian company Kik is valued at $1 billion.
Nearly a decade since it was founded, Kik is now taking bigger, more creative risks. Over the past year, Kik has pivoted from focusing solely on its well-known messenger app to enter the cryptocurrency field, unveiling the Kin digital currency.
After selling almost $100 million worth of Kin in its TDE last fall, Kik has recently introduced its new blockchain-based currency for use in its messenger app. Kik is betting that the transition will be smooth, since its users were already introduced to Kik Points, a rewards program that the app introduced in 2014 where people could earn points to spend on in-app purchases. Instead of Kik Points, the idea is for users to earn and spend Kin.
In the future, Kin is envisioned to be used not only in the Kik app, but in any social media and digital service as an alternative to advertising-based business models. So far, interest in cryptocurrency is relatively niche. The challenge is to take it mainstream. By introducing Kin to its Kik messenger users, Kik is hoping to spur adoption by regular consumers. With its its legion of young, tech-savvy users, the company is well positioned to lead this charge.
At Instabug, we’re proud to support Kik’s mission by providing tools to help the company maintain its world-class app quality and better understand their users through the feedback they get with our mobile SDK.
We sat down with Ashton Rankin, Product Manager at Kik, and Goran Zivkovic, QA Team Lead at Kik, to take a peek under the hood of the company’s product development process.
What tools do you use at Kik?
ASHTON: Zendesk for Trust and Safety.
We use Instabug as one of our inputs for the bug flow and when we get those, we transfer them to Jira as needed. We also use GitHub. For coding purposes we are iPhone and Android primarily, so Xcode and Android Studio, and we have used Travis as our builder in the past and CircleCI.
GORAN: We’re also using Xamarin for our automation for QA.
How do you handle beta versions of your apps?
We formed a beta community and opened up Instabug to this community of real Kik users. Instabug proved to be a great way for us to gather input from our users using beta versions Kik, in addition to internal usage in the company.Ashton Rankin, Product Manager
ASHTON: Instabug was a great way to do that.
We had it for a while, about a year, but then it was happening around the time we were switching to the Kin focus, so we were trying different things with releasing to the crypto community around Kin. It’s a different group of users than our regular Kik users, so the way we approach our beta community with them had to change.
GORAN: Not to say it was a hard stop, it just didn’t make sense at that time, but we always have the opportunity to reopen it whenever we can.
ASHTON: The way it worked was that we put in a survey to try to get users that fit some kind of criteria, whether it be for regulatory reasons or the type of users we wanted to test with because they were a representation of the largest percentage of our target users. When they accepted, we would reach out to them and we had Kik groups where we communicated with them. Since we’re a messenger, we had that way to use our own product to keep in touch with them.
Then we would set up various user testing sessions with them or we would just give them the new features in builds and then touch base after the fact to get their feedback. In New York, we have our Customer Insights Team and they would help us form our questions with Product.
Instabug was a great way outside of those user testing sessions to get ongoing feedback because sometimes it wasn’t just bugs. It was a way to communicate as well.Ashton Rankin, Product Manager
We could always use the chat system Instabug has to reach out to them instead of having to find their Kik username and replying to them separately.
What lessons did you learn from conducting your beta program?
ASHTON: For a while our marketing team worked really hard to develop who the main demographics of Kik users were before we actually started figuring out who do we want in this program.
As we worked with some of these users, we started to realize that some of them were more power users than the average user. So they volunteered for this because they love our product more than the average user or they use our product more than the average user.
Their opinion is super valuable and you get great insights, but you also have to understand that when you’re testing your products that you might also want to go to a different person in your beta community or do a user test with someone that’s new to your app to see if the opinions are still the same as your power users.
Get to know the users you add to your beta program. If you are going to build and iterate on products with their feedback in mind you need to understand who they are and if they represent your target audience.Ashton Rankin, Product Manager
During the time of the beta community my Product Team was actually very focused on performance and responsiveness, reliability. We were called the Health Team. A lot of what we shipped weren’t features that a user could visually see. For example, we were shipping changes to make the performance feel faster.
A challenge was trying to figure out how to test usage of features with written questions because you didn’t want to prime users and be like, “Is this faster?” So that was interesting, figuring out how I could personally work with the beta community to gain insights for that type of product change. Once we figured it out, it was great.
I didn’t necessarily always have to ship changes to get user validation. I would just talk to them about how they used the app and what they were feeling about certain things, and that helped influence how we would tackle something. And then I would give them the build without necessarily telling them about the changes and see if opinions changed.Ashton Rankin, Product Manager
It was a challenge to overcome that because I think shipping a product to test features that someone can actually see and interact with is a more common case with a beta community.
How do you handle bug reports?
ASHTON: We first look at it on Instabug. We want to make sure it’s not a duplicate or it’s something that’s not already known and also we try to reproduce it. From there, if it’s an actual bug, we forward it to Jira with all the information from Instabug and prioritize it.
We had a channel called #report_bugs on Slack, which we still have, and it’s basically for anyone in the company to report bugs internally.
GORAN: For user-related bugs, it was mostly through Zendesk or negative app store reviews.
ASHTON: What the flow used to be for internal reports was if I was at home on the weekend, I hit a bug within Kik on some dev build I was on, I would have to then open Slack to report the issue and send the screenshot.
People wanted to have an easier flow than that, and that’s how we found Instabug. We just wanted a way to communicate with each other really fast as we were testing internally.Ashton Rankin, Product Manager
What drew you to use Instabug?
ASHTON: I spent some time trying to find a solution before we found you guys. It was actually a co-op student that was on the QA team at the time that suggested Instabug and I looked into it. What I really liked about it was the ease of use of being able to get the screenshot, get the logs, get the user information. I could get the Kik username, the OS version, the network — stuff that QA would commonly ask for in a bug report — I could get that just by shaking the device and sending the report. That was really what drew me in.
There are common questions the QA team always asks after an issue is reported and Instabug gathered that information, or it was easy for us to add, like Kik username.Ashton Rankin, Product Manager
Since then, you guys have built on top of your product, and there are other great things that are really useful now, like sending videos and things like that that weren’t there when we first joined.
How did Instabug help your workflow?
GORAN: The quantity and the quality of feedback increased with Instabug.
The way we do it now, we have someone on call for the internal Slack channel and Instabug. So anything that comes in that week or weekend, they are responsible for triaging, figuring out if it’s a non-issue or not, and then send it over to Jira. That process is a lot easier on Instabug than it is on #report_bugs, mainly because on #report_bugs you have to ask people questions.
It’s a lot easier to see on our backend with the info given through Instabug what might have happened, and that saves about 15 minutes for investigation and we usually give about 30 for each issue that comes in through other sources.Goran Zivkovic, QA Team Lead
What Instabug features are most useful for how you work?
GORAN: For us, it’s the basic information. We don’t really look at the logs until we give it to the developers, that’s when they grab more information from those.
ASHTON: Not as often, but sometimes we do use Visual User Steps, which logs the screens that a user has gone to. It’s not needed as often because it’s usually pretty obvious as to how users got somewhere in the app. But sometimes, if the reporter hasn’t provided enough information about how they got into a certain situation, that’s been really helpful.
There have been a couple really tough bugs to find where the Visual Repro Steps have given us “Aha!” moments. So even though it’s not always used, it has been super helpful.Ashton Rankin, Product Manager
When I was on the QA team, I would also sometimes use the chat feature to e-mail people back about their issue. If they didn’t give enough information, I would send a message in their chat to send an e-mail and they would reply and that was really helpful.
GORAN: Sometimes we do that. Most of the time, since it’s internal we just go right up to them and ask. But with the beta community we definitely did that.