If it’s important to be user-friendly, and if the highest form of user-friendliness is user-centric, then why aren’t you doing it?
That’s the challenge posed by Dev Patnaik and Robert Becker, co-founders of Jump Associates. They do “need-finding,” which is part of their user-based business design.
Patnaik and Becker offer three reasons to uncover your customers’ needs:
1. Needs outlast solutions. If you focus on a solution, you’ll constantly try to improve that solution. But if you focus on a need, you’ll be open to looking beyond a particular solution and inventing a better one. Cassette tapes, compact discs and MP3s are a series of solutions developed to satisfy the need for portable music.
2. Needs suggest a road map for product development. Exploring needs will give you an idea of what new products should be developed. Even if the capabilities aren’t there yet, you can plan for hiring the necessary talent and making the necessary investments.
3. Addressing needs prevents workarounds. People get so used to compensating for design flaws that they aren’t even aware of what they’re doing. Procter & Gamble had to visit customers’ homes to see them unconsciously wiping drips from bottles of laundry detergent. The company redesigned the spout to catch drips.
Similarly, neither OXO nor its customers realized that conventional measuring cups force you to raise the cup to eye level so you can read its measurements. OXO cups now let you look straight down to see the quantity.
To start moving toward user-friendly designs, ask “who” and “what” questions, including:
- Who uses something like this now?
- Who wants one?
- Who told someone else to buy it?
- Who installs it?
- Who pays for it?
- Who sells it?
- Who fixes it?
- What’s not working?
- What do you want?
- What’s missing?
- What patterns do you see?
- What opportunities are there?
- What could be better?
— Adapted from “Outside In,” Damien Kernahan, Fast Thinking.