Mobile Academy: Opportunity and needs

Posted on September 24, 2012

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The second evening is kicking of with a creative section by Priya, by all accounts a creative genius.

Here is the sesh’s description from the programme

What is the problem that you are solving? What are users implicit & explicit needs? Really under­stand your target users by writing a “Day in the life of” persona story­board and start using the tools, methods and tem­plates you will need to tackle the first step of the design process. Use market-based ana­lysis to uncover any com­pet­itors and dis­cover learn­ings from similar ventures

Priya Prakash 20/9, 6.30pm (Thurs)

And here is a blog post regarding the session, complete with further reading.

Priya started by asking folks to explain their ideas for products or services.
I’ll not be detailing them as the speakers may not want that. However several were charity based, some sport/leisure and some for city peeps.

Principles
Developing Products, well everything really starts with the design process and this has a loop something like this
Understand -> concept -> test -> prototype

This is a cyclical you will not get it right first time, so be prepared to use the results of the tests and prototypes to feed back into better understanding.
[this is harder than you might think, because folks tend to get quite defensive about their ideas, ‘specially if you’ve spent time getting them ready for a prototype.
Thus it is important that early prototypes are light and easily changed, and that the concepts are recognised as being some of many. Eg prototype on post-it notes so you can move them around easily. Tom Humes blog has a great example for a clock app.
Something’s I’d add are to have a clearly defined goal, and to use this as a test for the concepts. Also ensure that the understanding has a few measurable elements so that these can be used to measure progress. Eg an understanding might be that I’d like to be able to know wherein am on a map in 5 seconds.]

Design first principles
It’s important in design to make sure your answering the right question, which is easier said than done. So Priya set out several ways to help getting this right.
So understand the user’s needs and the operations they need to perform to achieve their needs.

One way is to ask the three fundamental questions, Why? What? And How?

The Problem [your trying to solve] is the Why
The Brief is the what [you’ll do to solve it]
Design is the how [you’ll go about it]

Ask: who are you targeting ?
And then make sure you understand them.
Priya made it clear that it is people that use your apps and services, and they are motivated by different things in different ways, so do not fall into the trap of “just” designing a solution for your prefect user (worse if that is you).

Do some research
Couple of people pointed out that desk research can start with these things;
Existing app’s reviews is a good way of getting data, why are people praising or knocking these apps, learn from their successes and/or failures.
Look at google scholar, Forrester, pewter as sources of research and opinion.

Create a questionnaire, with open questions
This was looked at in a little detail. Make sure you are able to ask questions that provide thinking, aspirations and advice, not just simple yes/no or similar answers. The key is to keep the number of Qs small and easy to answer. This is done by asking “why”, why did you find this app useful ? that kind of thing.
Then you need to find people to answer your questions, so create a survey money survey and them
Then advertise it on craigslist or gum tree offer say £20 squids for people to fill it in. The money should help them be a little more focused or honest.

One chap gave an example where his team had used a 5 q survey and had used facebook, twitter etc to spread the word, and have people fill in the survey. He says they used the data gathered as evidence for funding.
They were successful.

Users Needs and aspirations
Separate the explicit need from the implicit what do they need and what they want,
look behind the answers Eg ask for value, ask questions such as “what do you think of …”

Ideo do the why test.
[Ideo are a product design house, their designers design just about everything. and they have a method, for want of a bette word, called “Design Thinking” and have been expanding the use of their ore ability to solve problems into many different areas of consultancy.]
The why test is where you keeping asking “why”, to see where it leads. “is a better than b”, followed by a succession of whys?

Goals
What ever you do remember that you need to be considering
What are the users goals and
what are the barriers in their way
Both of these are the areas where your product or service needs to be focused.
[and remember that as this is mobile, context, as Jo Rabin pointed out, is everything, ensure you test the goals and blockers with respect to who, where and when the app is in use]

Priya looked at a persona sheet and asked us to consider a persona for our service. This was a group exercise in pairs.
Here are the aspects of the persona we were asked to consider.

SKETCH YOUR USER
GIVE THEM A NAME
WHO IS HE/ SHE?
AGE

PROFESSION

LOCATION

TRANSPORT

HOBBY

ACTIVITIES

TECHNOLOGY USE
eg: Moderate phone user – bill paid by employer

KEY GOALS
eg: Be instantly available during work hours

Homework what is the problem your trying to solve.
Frame a brief

Design/Develop x for y to solve z for y’s benefit.

yes we have homework.

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