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I considered stuffing it down my couch; putting it in my cupboards; stowing it under my doormat, or even hiding it under boxes. However, I figured that this detective would know all these tricks beforehand. I realised that hiding this paperclip would be harder than I thought.
After 23 minutes, I still had not hidden the paperclip and I was starting to get desperate. Every time I hid the paperclip, I always second-guessed it and then rehid it. Now, I had no time left to hide it. Great job Andrew.
At that very moment, my doorbell rang. Without thinking, I put the paperclip in my mouth and ran down to open the door. Thinking quickly, I placed the paperclip underneath my tongue and greeted him.
The first thing he did was check my pockets for the paperclip. Thankfully, he either forgot to check my mouth or was too embarrassed to do so. Whatever the case, he completely ignored me for the rest of the hour and focused entirely on trying to find the paperclip.
As he was attempting to find the paperclip, I tried to be very talkative. This would throw him off the paperclip as well as hopefully annoying him.
Welcome to the vast grey area where user-experience design overlaps with marketing and product management.
Some of you may remember a SpongeBob SquarePants episode in which Squidward gets dropped into a future that has no walls, no floor or ceiling, and no directions — just an infinite, colorless void with random, meaningless shapes floating around. Judging from the question, this is where you are right now. (Clarinet optional.) Don’t panic. Feeling this way is perfectly normal.
First, set yourself a direction. This is problem-solving 101, and UX work is problem-solving. The problem is, “research” and “analytics” are vague. They’re means to an end, but what is that end?
If you have no guidance from marketing or product management, or you’re engaged collaboratively with those functions (which, as a UX designer, you should be), you might be looking for absolute fundamentals:
What need or want does it solve for them? What value does this give them in return for what cost? How motivated will they be to solve this need or want? What alternatives do they have to using our new product or service? What kinds of reasons will they have not to use our new product or service? What is the size of this potential market?
Once you have answers to those, then narrow it down to what’s relevant to design decisions. You can spend time researching your customers’ hair color, but it’s not going to affect your design.
In what context will they use this — at their desk at work, juggling three other applications? On the phone at the grocery store with nagging kids in tow, hurrying to get done and get home? With a customer in front of them at a service counter? At a self-service kiosk? How familiar are they with the space and how specialized is it? An application for doctors or engineers with a depth of domain knowledge and specific vocabularies is vastly different from shopping for umbrellas or cans of corn. How frequently will they use this? You can optimize for occasional or one-time use, or you can optimize for repeat use — those aren’t always or even usually the same. What’s the importance? This goes back to context. How urgent and how important is it for your end user to do what your product or service does?
Then you can narrow it down even further to information you can turn into design decisions:
Which is/are the major goal(s) and which are supporting and optional? If I need milk, my major goal is to get milk. Getting in the car to go to the store is one possible supporting goal. Also dropping by the hardware store for some washers is one possible optional goal. How do your users break down the problem space, and what do they name things? A tomato is two different things to a botanist and a cook. You can’t just lump it under Vegetables and expect that to work for anyone. What similar products, services, or tasks are they already familiar with? This is your benchmark for expectations. (It does not mean you have to design to mimic what people already know. Your ecommerce site doesn’t have to work like Amazon. It means this previous experience has formed your users’ habits and expectations, and you need to know what they are in order to make an informed choice whether to work with them or break them.) Where will people be using it? Phone, laptop, kiosk, voice interface … this is rarely as obvious as it may sound. If they will use it on both desktop and phone, are there different needs in those two contexts? Maybe the reason they’re using it on the phone are different from when they log in from their desktop?
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