Put this Hammer Down – Why do Customer Discovery ?


“When you have a hammer everything looks like a nail” -Bernard Baruch

Here, the hammer is your solution and the nails are your customers. I am sure you have already found lots of nails for your hammer. But please take a closer look at those nails. They are screws.

Put the hammer down and look at that poor screw. If it’s actually a nail, take the hammer back and take a swing, but if it’s a screw, you will need something else.

Many entrepreneurs start by building the solution they have imagined (a hammer) and then come up with a list of potential customers that could be interested (screws that look like nails) and hit them with their solution.

And the screw says ouch. The entrepreneur don’t hear the screw and hit harder, ouch, and then try to hit another screw. But the end of the day, the entrepreneur is exhausted that the nothing has being build.

The entrepreneur should really look at the screw, understand what type of screw it is, how the head is, the thread, the length, the alloy. And then think about the tool he can use for the job.

So put the hammer down and take a close look at that screw and decide what the solution should be. Don’t hit the screw on the head.

That’s called Customer Discovery. Remember, no hammer allowed.

Kano framework, classification of user needs

As part of the design course by Karl T. Ulrich (pictured) that I follow on coursera.org (great site btw, which is changing access to knowledge in a very significant way), I came across the Kano framework to classify the user need. Vertically is the user satisfaction (if the user is satisfied or not) and horizontally is if the need is addressed or not (or can be partly adressed). Here is the framework:
kano framework

User needs can be plotted in 4 curves which are:

  • Don’t care: either it’s here or not, but not all users care: for instance on a search engine it could be the need to search for images.
  • Linear: the better it’s done, the more satisfaction the user for the search engine it could be to find an answer to the query, this is provided by the relevance of the search results.
  • Must have: If it’s not there, the user is un happy. For search engine, it could a way to enter the search query (search box).
  • Latent: Little things, un-expected that create delight. For instance the ‘see from cache’ or ‘translate page’.

A little amazing feature on Gmail

Well, it was quite simple, I wrote an email, and somewhere in the email I wrote “I attached …” this document. Re-read the email and hit the send button.

And this pop-up came up.

Ouf! Thanks Gmail. How clever. I knew gmail was reading emails content to serve targeted ads, but it also tries help user avoid mistakes. How thoughtful. I feel like I have a safety net.

That’s the coolest gmail feature I have seen since the Unsend option. So simple, yet so useful.

Behavioral economics and the mistakes we do

In his gamification lecture on coursera.org Prof. Kevin Werbach talks about behavioral economics. At the intersection of ecomomics and behaviorism, behavioral economics differs from economics by looking specifically at people’s behaviors. What are people actually doing when facing a situation as opposed to they logically should be doing.

Kevin points out 3 interesting ‘mistakes’ people make consitently:

  • Loss aversion
  • people’s tendency to strongly prefer avoiding losses to acquiring gains. Some studies suggest that losses are twice as powerful, psychologically, as gains.

  • Power of default
  • people are more likely to go with the default option than to change it. This is observed regulary on the web while selecting an opt-in or opt-out process.

  • Confirmation bias
  • tendency of people to favor information that confirms their beliefs or hypotheses. People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way.

    Loss aversion and power of default – seems to be able to be corrected by paying attention. The confirmation bias seems pretty strong and much harder to correct. The effect is stronger for emotionally charged issues and for deeply entrenched beliefs – says Wikipedia. The related effect are: polarization of opinion (think politics), persistence of discredited beliefs (beliefs remain when the initial evidence is removed), preference for early information, illusory association between events (see non-existent correlations).

    It is about the users

    I recommend reading ‘The design of everyday things’ by Donald Norman.
    The book convey a very rich idea.

    The idea is about putting the user at the center of the design. It’s user-centric design: designing based on the needs of the user, leaving aside other considerations. It involves simplifying the structure of tasks, making things visible, getting the mapping right, exploiting the powers of constraint, and designing for error. It’s about designing for usability. Putting by the user at the center of the design process.

    On the web
    Since the book was published in 1988, the user-centred approach has gone a long way and is today extensively adopted in web design. On the web it possible to create different version of a site (with different text, colors, photos, layouts and functionalities). Splitting the visitors into the different version of the site and analysing how the visitor behave on each version allows to conclude which version is most effective. This is multi-variatant testing.
    Classical user testing – observing the user interacting with the site – is also providing valuable insights on how to improve a web site. But the aim of those techniques is make sure the visitors can use the site easily, to help them do what they what to do.

    On video games
    That’s how I see user centred design being applied to the web. We are seeing such evolution in the video games today: the classic game pad is removed and replaced by a microphone, a guitar, a camera, or a wii detecting you movement. It’s simplifying the way the way the player interact with the game. Its removing the need to understand or learn the complexity and controller. Before you had to press left-left-right-cross-square-square-circle to trigger the power move. Now you just have give a punch with your Wii.

    On the rest
    Now, how about stretching the idea other fields, where complexity is still high. Simplifying the way things are done, making them easy, understandable and accessible. How about applying that to tax forms, contracts, opening banking accounts. That’s the point Alan Siegel is making in this short TED talk.

    Any other area where this idea will bring significant changes ?