Looking for the 'right' idea?
Find the 'right' problem first through user interviews
There is a tendency within business to focus on finding the ‘right’ idea. The ‘innovative’ product or feature that will change the game. We need to remember though that ‘right’ ideas only appear after focusing on the ‘right’ problems.
We’ve found one of the best tools in our Design Thinking toolbox is the User Interview. A one-on-one 15–60 minute conversation intended to understand a person’s habits, belief systems and behavioural triggers.
Here are three tips for getting started with user interviews to find problems worth solving.
You can use interviews from just a small number of people. In the first stage of a project, vow to interview just 3 users from your target audience before making any concrete decisions about the product. We have found this produces more grounded and insightful data than sending out one survey to a thousand potential users. This process will take half a day max and help you validate or reject important assumptions such as “does this target market have this problem?” “do they already do something to try and solve the problem?” “is this current solution less effective/more costly than mine?”.
Ask Why, with caution.
The aim of the user interview is to gather a full picture of how the user currently behaves and feels with your product or similar products and services. Your best weapon here is the word ‘Why’. Ask consistently during the interview like a child in a new country. One word of caution: when we explain our behaviour, we only have the evidence our consciousness throws at us. There are often unconscious biases behind actions that are best inferred through studying context. You are certain you chose the 2005 Bordeaux Red in the supermarket today because it goes well with steak, but the french music playing in the background swayed you more than you realise. Therefore use ‘Why’ liberally but don’t forget to also tease out contextual detail with “When” “Where” and “With whom”.
Find out what has been, not what will be. Extract stories of real past experiences connected to the problem you are solving, steer clear of hypotheticals. For example if you are opening up a gym, ask your interviewee “how many times have you been to the gym this month?” rather than “how many times will you go to the gym next month?” This is a truthful therefore more useful baseline of gym habits. Your design decisions will only be as good as the data and evidence you base them on. The best possible data is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. To illustrate this point best, read this great case study that used best interview practice to understand why homeowners wouldn’t buy the houses they told architects to make them.
We have used user interviews to help our clients solve pressing and complex challenges—from an AFL footy club designing the perfect fan experience to a stockbroking firm revolutionising digital market information communication. By putting the user at the centre of the process, the right problems stay front of mind and the right solutions fall out the other side.
Get in touch with us if you’re interested in learning more about user interviews to bring user centred decisions to your company.
Co-written by Victoria Cullen and Erica Davis
Join Naked Ambition at General Assembly to learn how to bring your ideas to life using Design Thinking – an approach to solving business challenges by understanding user's needs and developing insights to solve those needs.
In simple language, it helps you design products and services that your customers actually want and avoid investing time and money on ideas that won't work.
Whether you're officially responsible for driving innovation in your company or have a personal passion for bringing ideas to life – this is a crash course on the concepts of design thinking and how they might be applied to get ideas off the ground and harness entrepreneurial spirit in an organisation.
Grab your ticket here – be quick they're selling fast!
What are people saying about this workshop?
"I attended your Design Thinking workshop that you conducted at General Assembly a couple of months ago, my 'idea' was a colouring book of Melbourne Buildings. And it's happening!! So I just wanted to let you know and say thanks for the encouragement at the workshop. We reached our Pozible target in 5 days, but the pledges and pre-orders are still rolling in. So thanks for a good session and all the best.”
– Clare Williamson, co-creator of the Buildings of Melbourne Colouring Book