Simon is one of UJAM’s support and testing engineers. Simon joined the team in 2015 with a background as an audio engineer, producer & DJ. He gets his hands dirty with our products and talks to users. In this Behind The Scenes article he shares insights about the way our community has an effect on what we do – and vice versa.
What’s it like being at UJAM and what do you do?
I originally joined the team as a testing engineer, even before we launched our first Virtual Guitarist. When we launched IRON, we did it really organically and step-by-step. I quite naturally drifted towards talking to our users, maybe because I am one of them and I love helping people.
Today, most support communication goes through me and Tim Brink, who is taking over a lot lately, although various other members on the team monitor support emails and help us out when a certain expertise is needed, as I’m becoming busier and busier taking care of our product testing too.
What’s UJAMs user community like?
We have a very active and vocal community, and I talk to them through personal emails instead of prefab responses. With some users, I even end up in long, often productive discussions.
I see my goal in transporting our culture of transparency and companionship into our community. Our users come in all flavors – from people who buy or try a Virtual Guitarist as their first virtual instrument – and just need installation help – to artists with a shelf full of Grammies asking super-detailed questions, and making complex feature suggestions.
It is very important to me to have a bilateral, personal relationship and to take every single suggestion and request seriously. I mean, somebody took the time to write to us, that is meaningful! It’s important to me that every user knows that if he makes a suggestion, it might totally make it into the product.
Does user feedback have a real influence on products (be honest)?
Oh man, very much so. Our users do have a strong impact on our products, from tiny improvements to big features we add to entire titles.
Example 1: Years ago, a fingerpicking nylon guitar was one of the most popular requests from our community. We got about two requests for it per week, over quite a long period. And it is what made us create SILK.
Example 2: It is fair to say that our latest series, Virtual Bassist, which we just launched the pre-order campaign for, was inspired by early feedback to Virtual Guitarist. Many users had used Steinbergs Virtual Bassist which – like Virtual Guitarist had been built by key members of our current team – so they just saw it as a natural follow-up to our VG line. When we launched Virtual Drummers, we almost instantly got a lot of “peer pressure” on Zendesk, Facebook and other channels along the lines of “ok, now you REALLY got to complete the band”.
It wasn’t as easy as we thought, with the bass being a simpler instrument than the guitar, and our original Virtual Bassist creators being adamant about making the next step. But we did factor in a lot of user input and guidance – from choice of titles to the maximum similarity with our Virtual Guitarists to catering to user requests for a playable instrument. We’re very happy with the result, and hope those users will be too.
What defines UJAM instruments in your opinion?
I can share a few insights into how we develop: I remember the time when we made a very conscious decision to make VG as simple as possible, while being as realistic as possible. That meant sacrificing options, complexity and features. Coming from a highly professional audio background we could not know: would users really appreciate it, or would there be a lot of backlash? Fast forward 2 years, while yes, we did get a few complaints about missing features, the vast majority of feedback was gratitude and praise for the simplicity and realism – even from high-profile artists. That was truly a learning for us. And it went into our Drummers, Beatmakers and now the Virtual Bassists too.
A kind of feedback I really love is when people feel compelled to create things with our Virtual Musicians. So far, this is most often blog posts or tutorial videos, which we often promote. We don’t publicly use endorsers or paid-for content – we take what people create proactively, and it feels much better. What I’d like to see more is users sending us their songs created with our products. So here’s a shoutout to everybody out there – share your links at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is your favority support experience so far?
My favorite support experience so far started with a very touching email from a guy in the US who had played guitar for 40 years, until arthrosis stopped him. When he discovered Virtual Guitarist, he told us it gave him a life again. You can’t make these stories up or plan for them – that’s pure serendipity. We’re not the only ones who hear these stories, it’s part of making instruments. Feels great.