Since we're building products for people, it makes sense to start with people. A great product is a response to a painful problem, and we use research to make sure we know everything about that problem. Research is our first step in mitigating the risk that comes with building a product.
We talk to or observe people to find out what pain points and problems they are having. We learn about their own solutions and how they came to be. Then, we look at what outcome they are hoping for and what goal they are trying to achieve. This outcome helps fuel our understanding of the problem and allows us to start with a baseline understanding of the language and culture around that problem. It saves us time by making sure that we are solving painful problems that are worth the investment that we put into solving them.
How we conduct research
What people have done is the best predictor of what they will do in the future. Some of the best ways to find out what people have done are though Jobs-to-be-done Switch interviews, in-person ethnographic research, and online ethnographic research.
Switch interviews detail the timeline of a recent purchase or change. First, we go back to the beginning when the person thought they had found a solution to their problem. Then, we jump ahead to when they decided to try something different. We walk through the steps they took to find this new solution, and the pain points that drove them there. This helps us understand the problem in the context of a person's motivation and desire to fix it.
We interview people who have recently switched products or solutions because the timeline of why they switched is still fresh in their mind. They solved this same problem with something else before and now have a new solution.
- Why did they believe it's better?
- How are they feeling about the switch after?
- What were the emotions that were pushing or pulling them to arrive at their new solution?
In-person ethnographic research is conducted by watching people perform their daily tasks in the environment they normally would. This means sitting with a telephone support operator for a day to watch their routine or riding with a Physician Assistant while they drive to each of their patient's houses to do checkups.
We conduct ethnographic research online by combing through forums, Facebook groups, and other watering holes on the internet. We look for detailed posts about issues in the problem space. We see the language that people use online and see how they communicate with each other. Many people talk about issues openly online in a way that they wouldn't in-person.
We're able to see friction points with people's current solution that they wouldn't recognize themselves. Through ethnography, we gain a better understanding of the context of a problem and potentially see more painful problems or more significant opportunities.
Driving at emotions
During this research, we drive at the emotional component of buying or using products. Though most of us believe that we are logical, most of our decisions are made emotionally.
You are not the only user
When interviewing people, we look for people that aren't emotionally invested in the product. We want honest answers and when people have an investment in the business they already have biases on the problem and potential solutions. It's important to remember that your experiences will not be the same as every other person that uses the product.
There are undoubtedly other ways to conduct research, but we've found that these techniques provide the best answers with the least amount of investment.
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