Design, Develop, Create

Monday, 7 September 2015

What customers really want?

How do you decide what product feature to develop next, how to enter new markets, address more customers, how to disrupt and innovate with your product?
  • Innovation is hard.
  • Innovation is not simply a matter of inventing new stuff.
  • But yes, innovation is all about the introduction of the new.
  • Introduction implies dialogue, talking with and listening to.
  • Innovation holds out the promise of growth and transformation, both of which are difficult to predict based on historical data.
What customers really want is something for a "job to be done". Think of this in terms of what the customer comes into your shop to buy.  Think of it as your customer having 'a goal in mind' and your product or service is simply an 'in order to...' But sometimes the product you deliver is like an infrastructure or background against which the customer does something.
SnapChat is a bit like this (as are email, FaceBook etc). The service offers some way that lets the customer do something; send a message, post a photo, annotate or draw on a photo, share the picture with friends.
Think of your product and features in this way. No one buys a phone for the pleasure of owning a phone, they own it in order to call and receive calls. At a very basic level your product or service is simply an 'in order to..', it is necessary equipment for the 'job to be done.' This basic level of utility merely gives your product permission to be considered for use.

Juan Pablo Vazquez Sampere offers the following diagnostic in order to address this problem, of finding out what customers really want.
  1. List what you think are the 10 key characteristics of your product offering (e.g. speed, easy to use, ergonomic, cheaper than rivals, etc.)
  2. Then interview 10 users and 10 non-users of your product, but importantly ask them questions that seek to understand their "job to be done" and "in order to's'.
For users start by asking:
a) Where are you when you are using this feature?
b) When you use this feature, what are you really trying to do? (accomplish, achieve...)
c) If this feature were not available, what would you be using instead?
You can ask the second two questions without reference to your product.
(Sampere, 2014)"
Likewise as non-users the second two questions without reference to product, they don't use it anyway but they still attempt to achieve "in order to's" or complete "jobs to be done". Vazquez's steps 3, 4 5 & 6 are methodological: 3 - Transcribe the recordings, 4 - code the transcripts, 5 - group codes, 6 - interpret the data (in this article Vazquez recommends quantitative analysis of the coded data). Alternatively I recommend the application of grounded theory to code and interpret this kind of interview based quasi-ethnographic qualitative data. Basically Vazquez has provided a light-weight sketch of an interpretive investigation, how to research the subjective aspects of product use.
The same questions are employed for product design, in particular for discovery and evaluation. These activities may go by different names; requirements engineering, feature design, and testing. They may be embedded within the various documents of a product project plan or design specification. They are however of such fundamental importance to good product design that we really should bring them to the front.
Don Norman's design framework in the Design of Everyday Things (1988) highlights the need for designers to focus on these 'jobs to be done' or 'in order tos'. These are equivalent to the question we ask users; 'what is the goal'? Norman elaborates further on two 'gulfs' between users' intention and what happens in the world. Designs must necessarily overcome these gulfs in order for the user to succeed in their intention. The designed object is the link between a user's goal and the world they are situated in. Execution refers to a designed object's capability to satisfy the user's goal. Evaluation refers to how a designed object responds or signifies state, essentially how feedback is presented to the user. 
Seven questions are posed for designer and user:
The goal question:
1. Forming the goal (Q: What do I want to accomplish?)
The gulf of execution involves 'discovery'. Users ask:
2. Forming the intention (Q: What are my alternatives?)
3. Specifying the action (Q: What can I do now?)
4. Executing the action (Q: How do I do it?)
The gulf of evaluation involves feedback. Users ask:
5. Perceiving the state of the world (Q: What happened?)
6. Interpreting the state of the world (Q: What does it mean?)
7. Evaluating the outcome (Q: Is this OK? Have I accomplished my goal?)
(p48 DOET and in Instructor Notes on Udacity)
"Good designers empathise with the people that they're designing for" Don Norman. The key concepts that designers employ (according to Norman) are the following:
  • Affordances
  • Signifiers
  • Conceptual model
  • System image
  • Discoverability 
  • Feedback