When big websites make redesigns, add new features or remove some, they ask their users for feedback but ignore almost all of them. I always wondered why. It can end in two ways the user gets frustrated and leave or he simply gets used to it and and stops complaining.
Remember Facebook timeline? It was a deal breaker for almost everyone I know, and everyone threatened to leave Facebook. Turns out they were bluffing. Timeline is now almost invisible, it is part of Facebook. People now use the term "checking my timeline."
Now here is what the creator of Gmail says:
I wrote the first version of Gmail in one day. It was not very impressive. All I did was stuff my own email into the Google Groups (Usenet) indexing engine. I sent it out to a few people for feedback, and they said that it was somewhat useful, but it would be better if it searched over their email instead of mine. That was version two. After I released that people started wanting the ability to respond to email as well. That was version three. That process went on for a couple of years inside of Google before we released to the world.
Startups don't have hundreds of internal users, so it's important to release to the world much sooner. When FriendFeed was semi-released (private beta) in October, the product was only about two months old (and 99.9% written by two people, Bret and Jim). We've made a lot of improvements since then, and the product that we have today is much better than what we would have built had we not launched. The reason? We have users, and we listen to them, and we see which things work and which don't.
So he basically says the reason of his success is the users suggestions. While another article suggest something a little different:
To design an easy-to-use interface, pay attention to what users do, not what they say. Self-reported claims are unreliable, as are user speculations about future behavior.
Listening to users on Google Groups makes sense, they are mostly experienced users and can give you technical suggestions. But asking for suggestion to Facebook users will not get you very far. Most people will tell you "I like the green button better, or can you move it an inch to the right?". Useless!!!
An A/B test is not always relevant, but it is a good way to watch how a user behaves instead of listening to what they say they do. Takes the hypocrisy out of the equation.