Chris Thelwell

Are you listening?

When creating new innovative products one problem which comes up time and time again is how to go about testing the idea.

Written on Wednesday, 22nd May 2013 by Chris Thelwell

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The usual approach is to conduct some form of user testing or focus groups. Most of the time these work fine, however if you are truly innovating and trying to change your user’s behaviours the results can often be confusing. So how do you test something really new?

Apple never run focus groups:

It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.
Steve Jobs

For example, if you gave a car to a caveman and asked for his opinion you wouldn’t get a useful response. The caveman doesn’t know he has a need for a car. Henry Ford famously said:

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.

If you then showed the caveman how to use the car and let him try it for a few days the results would probably be very different. You have changed his behaviour. What’s even better is that you don’t have to ask the caveman for his opinion. You can prove this change of behaviour from the data available; miles driven, distance from cave achieved, petrol used etc.

Facts not opinion

The problem is that people’s opinions (when asked for) often differ from how they would actually act in real life. The solution is really simple:

  1. Get really close to the user to understand their problems and needs, without asking them what they want.
  2. Get your product out in the real world and test it with real users.
  3. Set the right metrics and start to learn what the user really needs. Change. Go again. Learn. Change. Go again. Listen to what your user actually needs and evolve your product based on facts not opinions.

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