// THE CHALLENGE //
We at FinLeap are aiming to build around 4 to 6 new ventures every year. While we have many ideas, it’s important for us (and frankly any entrepreneur) to focus our efforts on the right problems to not waste precious resources.
“Do we understand our users and do they actually need our product?” .
Hence, our key challenge during the ideation phase is to decide for the right idea tackle. To take this decision, we have defined a list of gatekeeper questions that need to be answered, one of which is the following: Do we understand our users and do they actually need our product?
As there are plenty of good sources to learn about user research, validating concepts through user testing and conducting interviews, this article summarizes a few of our learnings from our hands on experiences in this field.
// OUR APPROACH //
When we validate ideas, we employ a set of qualitative research tools. To start off, we employ a rule of thumb: The less you know the less you should present a product or prototype. If you literally just have an idea, first try to understand the users involved in your product. We do this with open interviews with both potential users or industry experts.
A// OPEN INTERVIEWS :
TIP #1: Create a stakeholder map
Figure out who is involved in your potential product. A good way to identify all relevant stakeholders is to visualize the user journey and map the involvement of the different parties. What is their goal? What is their job in the process? The stakeholder map defines with whom you need to talk later to validate your core assumptions.
TIP #2: Write down your questions & highlight the riskiest assumptions
Progress over form. Write down your core questions to get started. Typically, you will find 2-3 so called riskiest assumptions which decide if your product has the potential to exist or not. Try to find those in your question list and test the riskiest assumptions first to save valuable time.
TIP #3: Perform 5-people interview batches & iterate
While running user interviews is more an art than a science, we have experienced one key learning: be quick and don’t overengineer the process. Best schedule your first 3-5 interviews as soon as you have your questions ready and iterate from your learnings. You will see that some questions make sense, others need refinement and you will find new areas to deep dive into entirely.
“Be open: you don’t know what you don’t know.” .
Especially in the early phases, you will discover topics that you didn’t have on your radar at all. You will find that you simply didn’t know what you didn’t know yet. During open interviews, it’s important not to dive into solutions yet and start selling your ideas. You want to understand the status quo first.
TIP #4: Ask what people actually did last week
When you try to understand how a user is handling a certain situation, ask for specific examples of the past. You don’t want the user to give you a general opinion that potentially just reflects the ideal scenario in the user’s head.
An example: if you ask “How often do you work out or go to the gym?”, people will tend to give their ideal answer, e.g. “3 times a week”. But if you ask “How often did you work out last week?” you may get a more realistic answer. Then, follow up with questions like “Was that a typical week?” to dig deeper.
TIP #5: Record interviews or get someone to take notes
A simple tip, but makes a big difference. You need to stay focused on the interview itself and be able to read between the lines, ask good follow up questions. Remove the task to take notes by recording the interview or get a second person involved for the job.
B// PROTOTYPE TESTS :
Once you have a much clearer understanding of your potential users and have refined which solution might actually solve a noteworthy problem, it’s time to quickly prototype your idea. The prototype should reflect a realistic scenario that is possible for you to achieve in the mid term.
TIP #6: Spend time for the introduction & set the scene
Even if a user has already participated in a usability testing session, it can still be a stressful situation. You want to take any fear away by properly introducing the test. State that you’re not testing the person, you’re actually testing the prototype. The user can’t do anything wrong, any feedback is welcome. It often helps to say that you were not part of creating the concept to take away any fear of insulting you or your work.
Then, it’s important to introduce the user journey. Give context, so that the user can imagine in which scenario he’d usually be in.
TIP #7: Ask questions like a therapist
When testing your prototype, it’s important not to lead the user too much. Read “Things a therapist would say” to get some inspiration for speaking in a way that will get good, untainted answers. A quick checklist:
- Avoid yes/no questions
- Avoid leading questions that hint towards a direction or answer
- Employ the 5 why’s technique if applicable
- Don’t sell your solutions but take any question from the user as input and ask a why question back
TIP #8: Summarize learnings effectively
A test isn’t worth much if you don’t summarize the learnings effectively. That also holds true for the open interviews. One method that we found useful is the following:
Barriers & pains vs. drivers & delights analysis
- On one side, note what keeps them from doing an action (barrier) or what is really hard to do (pain)
- On the other side, note what motivates them to do an action (driver) or what they enjoy (delights)
TIP #9: Prioritize actionable next steps
From your research, you will generate ideas that you could implement. With any prioritization, a good tool to agree on your next steps is the effort/impact matrix (see below). Quick wins should always be addressed, while high impact, high effort ideas should be well decided if they fit the strategy.
TIP #10: Test again until confident
When time is scarce, one is often already happy to have tested a concept once and refined from the first feedback. But we have learned that especially when the first feedback is quite mixed and you change a lot, a second test will have a lot of value. Often enough, the second iteration isn’t as good yet as you may have expected and many users are still confused by your solution.
In order to build products that people love, and not just like, the key factor is to understand your users. We do this by researching early on and iterating quickly. We hope our ten tips are useful for you as well and show how we conduct research at FinLeap.