Listening to your customers saves you time and heartache

Jun 05 2015

My team spent a lot of time researching this week, and we learned a big lesson: judging your product on your own preferences is a surefire way to waste time and completely miss your customers.

Our team is working on building a debate game for the following three customer segments: college students, educators and families with children.

In order to get customer feedback quickly, we started by focusing on the college students segment because it’s very easy for us to get a convenient sample of college students to test our product.

Testing the game. Photo by Elizabeth Bartholf.

Testing the game. Photo by Elizabeth Bartholf.

We built our first prototype with colorful construction paper since it’s simple and cost-effective. The process of building a prototype was fairly simple for us. First, we brainstormed and wrote down some ideas for the basic structure of the game, drawing inspiration from other board games and card games we’ve played before. We built the prototype in about 20 minutes and moved on to the next stage of testing it.

We played the game ourselves first and as we played it, we discussed things we could change to make the game easier to understand more fun to play. We quickly implemented our own ideas of changing the game and tested it with other people in the Lab.

As we explained the rules to the participants and they asked questions, we would notice things we could change. Some participants offered suggestions while they were playing the game. We tried to take notes of everything we heard without jumping to judgments or explanations. Also, we tried to pay attention to little things and expressions from our participants from “Oh no” to “I can’t think of anything to say.” By observing the user experience closely and attentively, we collected any information we could in order to make out product more desirable.

We also invited other students to come in and test our game and followed the same procedure of listening and taking notes of their feedback.

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Game pieces. Photo by Ashley Roddy.

After we gathered a good amount of information from the participants from a few days of testing our game, our team went through everything that had been said and brainstormed on whether we would modify our game to solve a specific problem or meet a specific need and how. Then before we began our new round of testing, we modified the game so we could quickly see how people responded to the changes.

The process of listening to customers, gathering feedback, and making decisions to improve the product is very important and helpful. It gave us information we couldn’t have gotten any other way, and helped us continue to build on our product. While we paid attention to any reaction and response from participants, we also kept in mind that we were not trying to target all college students. As a result, we wouldn’t address everything voiced because it’s very likely that someone who disliked a major part of our product is simply outside our target customer segment.

However, getting this feedback can be tricky, especially when you are in the early stage of developing a product and many things are still uncertain. We realized we should have had a clearer idea of what we wanted to test about the game before we started the user testing. We wanted to know if people liked our game and what they liked or disliked about it, but we should also have had more specific questions to ask like whether they liked the time constraints we put on each round of the debate, what they would change about the scoring system, etc. Since our team is designing a game that targets college students, we sometimes fall into the trap of judging everything based on how we like it or dislike it. Talking and listening to other people helped us get out of that trap and reminded us that we are not measuring desirability according to our preferences, but those of our customers.


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