AEA12: What’s Your Problem?

AEA12: What’s Your Problem? Picture

“What do you do?” has become the standard opening line for getting to know someone. But if you were asked, “Why do you do what you do?” how would you answer? We are too narrowly focused on developing solutions for problems that we don’t understand, don’t care about, or worst of all, don’t actually exist. Life is too short to waste our time expertly creating something that matters to no one. Learn to find your “why.” Discover interviewing techniques to build greater empathy with your users, synthesizing techniques to uncover their underlying inefficiencies and frustrations, and tips to continually draw inspiration and long-term product vision from their lives.

Whitney Hess

Our story begins…

P&G needed a new floor cleaner. Weren’t sure where to get one. Needed a better floor soap (cleaning solution).

Stronger soaps were stripping floor surfaces and irritating skin. They brought in designers. They went into homes and watched people mop floors. Chemists didn’t do that. Mopping floors is really messy. Basically mopping with dirty water. They observed a lady cleaning up coffee with a paper towel. The Swiffer was born. A paper towel on the end of a stick.

$100 million in sales in the first four months. Second most popular product. Annual sales of $500 million.

Lesson? Design is problem solving.

To come to the right solution, we must make sure we’re solving the right problem. Be strategic, not just tactical.

Process: Define the problem before trying to solve it. 55/5 principal. The more time we spend unearthing the problem, the more likely we are to solve the problem. Problem setting needs to precede problem solving.

Not everything we see as a problem is a problem. Designers don’t get to decide what the problem is.

A problem is the gap between the current and desired state.

Brighter Planet Campaign

“Tree huggers” or “deep greens” did not need another way to calculate their carbon footprint.

People: Ask questions to root out the truth.

You need to get out into the world to get to the root of the problem. You need to interact with the people that you are trying to help.

Market research vs User research.

User Research includes interviews. Interviews include:

  • Find representative users
  • Ask questions
  • Listen closely
  • Write it down
  • Paraphrase to confirm understanding

Conducted as a conversation.

Lifestyle Questions:

  • Tell me a bit about yourself. Where do you live? Where are you from?
  • What kind of home do you live in? What do you use for transportation.

Context Q’s

  • How did you become eco-conscious? How long has it been?

Influence Q’s

  • Where do you get info?
  • What orgs do you belong to?

Social Q’s

  • With whom do you share?
  • Tell me about a recent conversation about the environment?

Familiarity Q’s

  • What do you know about carbon offsets?
  • Have you purchased them?
  • Have you calculated your carbon footprint? Where? How?

Want to get to know the people independent of the company or product.

Web Use Questions

  • What other websites do you frequent?
  • What social networks do you use?
  • How often? How many friends / followers?
  • What do you do most often on each site?

Tech Questions

  • What kind of computer do you own?
  • How do you connect to the internet?
  • What kind of phone?
  • What other devices?

Phrasing allows for open ended answers. Don’t want yes / no answers.

Six categories

  • Background
  • Behaviors
  • Attitude
  • Frustrations
  • Motivations
  • Tech Use

Big contrast is when you have different user segments which are then turned into personas. Not about demographics, about psychographics (attitudes, frustrations, etc).

The solution for Brighter Planet: Practical advice, guilt free, interface allows you to click not type.

You can do this!

Empathy Map (Dave Gray - Gamestorming pg 65)

The 5 Whys? State the Problem then continue asking why? and get to the root of the problem.

Fishbone Diagram

  • Effect at head of the fish. Ask why this happened?
  • Draw causes. And causes off of those lines. Eventually get to the root of the problem.
  • Have to be obsessive to find the root issue of the problem.

Purpose: Be obsessed with the problem, not the solution.

Don’t be obsessed with the solution or the techniques. The root of the problem is hidden.

Optimist? Pessimist? Realist: Dudes’s, that glass is twice as big as it needs to be!

Craft a problem statement.

  • Concise
  • Specific
  • Measurable

Simple problem statement: Who needs what because why.

Never start before getting the problem statement approved by the client.

5 W’s Technique is another way to create a problem statement. Who, What, When, Where, Why?

Being a great designer means being a great communicator.

Brighter Planet social network for maintaining, sharing and learning how to reduce your carbon footprint. Includes one short question each time the user logged in to help refine the users carbon usage / profile.

Life is too short to waste it solving the wrong problems!

Make stuff that matters to you, your organization, your users.

Question and Answer Session

How do you get to the real users, not just those with the time? How to recruit participants? Choose who you want to interview and request the time from them. Hand pick them. Look at user logs, unsolicited feedback, etc.

Optimum number of interviews? The right number of users varies from project to project. Rule of thumb, you can stop interviewing people when you stop hearing new things across all segments.

How about direct observation of users? Often start with observations. Contextual inquiries.

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About The Author

G. Brad Hopkins's avatar
  • G. Brad Hopkins
  • About Me: I bought my first computer - an Apple Performa 6320 - when I was in college and have been building websites ever since. These days I spend most of my time writing code and helping to bring interesting projects to life.
  • @gbradhopkins