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Design, Technology

2 Principles to Live By in Product Development

3 minute read | By: Sam Stevens

Being at the beginning of the product creation process always excites me. There is nothing quite like being on the team that brings thoughts and ideas from a whiteboard into a fully functional product. It’s rare when the mix of creative outlet falls directly in-line with the day-to-day tasks. I get to work with every member of the team, sitting in on demos to investors and clients. I know every nook and cranny of how the product works and the reasons why it works that way. I can quickly train someone on how to use the product and if an issue comes up, I can address it quickly without spending time finding where the issue occurs. It’s almost instinctual, I can sense the different parts of the system and how they interact.

On the other hand, this intimate knowledge becomes a double-edged sword as the product reaches maturity. Over time, it becomes more and more difficult for me to put myself in the position of someone who has never seen the product and is using it for the first time. New customers have never seen the product before and do not know it’s history. They approach with their own unique goals and background, expecting the product to work intuitively. The knowledge that I take for granted, the customer has not experienced yet in the product and I need to be mindful of all the unique perspectives.

Ironically, one of my strengths also becomes my weakness. To avoid my weakness, I follow the age-old wisdom: “Put yourself in someone else’s shoes”.

Developer Working In His Office.

There are two main pieces to this puzzle, the first one is understanding the customer’s point of view, and matching their environment.

First: Understand the Customer’s Point of View

For the first piece, I start by re-reading the customers feedback. This is especially important if the feedback is brief on detail and high on emotion. I need details of what the customer’s goal is to help them achieve it. Their emotion is used to help me understand how and why they are achieving their goal. I start where they start and walk along their path. Understanding their emotion and where the customer starts, could be as simple as feeling lost where they feel lost. Perhaps they performed a unique series of actions and ended up at a spot with no clear direction on what to do next.

Once I can walk along their path and feel confident that I am holding their point of view in mind, my weakness becomes a strength again. As I feel their struggles I can let my intimate knowledge of the product return to find a solution. I can then create a check to ensure this spot has clear directions. Or their might be a more natural way to perform an action directly from this point that helps continue the workflow.

Second: Match the Environment

In the digital world, their environment is the device they use to interact with the product: a computer, web browser, mobile, or voice.

Understanding the customer and environment

It can be as simple as opening a browser in private mode to having a separate device to test the product that is different from the one used to develop the product. Like how paper and pencil can stimulate new ideas, changing the computer environment from “developer” mode to “customer” mode helps me understand the point of view of the customer.

At Truthlab we often make this a team exercise. After receiving feedback from onboarding a customer or a demo, we set some time aside and whiteboard how to integrate those insights into our product. Customer experience is vital to success of a product. Use all the tools you can to ensure a deep understanding of the customer or risk losing them.