So if you’ve read the first couple of articles in this series, which you can read here for part 1 and here for part 2, you should have the start of the process down… We’re basically enhancing the standard product process by adding a little additional testing before it gets to your customers.
So with our two characters, Cathy (the homemaker and mother trying to use her blog to generate some revenue) and Bob (the professional writer who wants to use the internet and blogs to further his business).
Let’s say we have a few people in our product development team. Mary, George, and Tom. Mary and George are the writers for the book and Tom is the manager. All three can get involved in this process.
At a minimum it helps to have two people involved in the interaction. One to be the character interacting with the product, and the other as an observer, noting anything that comes up during the session. But with two or more characters, you definitely need the observer role to try and document the results of the experiment.
So George is going to be Cathy and Mary is going to be Bob. Both take a look at their characters and try to get into the mindset of that fictitious individual. They will try very hard to think how they think that character would perceive the product.
George goes first. He takes a look at the Table of Contents first, thinking that Cathy would probably want a bit of an overview. And then he goes to the Introduction, but doesn’t find much of an overview. That will need to get fixed. And as he goes through the book, chapter by chapter, he notes little things like the need for summaries at the end of a chapter, or perhaps they should add more examples, or even go so far as to write a series of tutorials to help beginners out.
Mary on the other hand, goes straight to the back of the book. Bob knows what he’s looking for and will mine the book for specific tidbits about blogging, about banner ads, social networking sites, search engines, and the like. He’s more interested in the down and dirty approach and wants lots of good examples that he can pillage and make his own going forward.
Do you see how each “player” in this session came up with different types of feedback for the book, all without actually talking to customers. Now, it may turn out that they were off base. But more often than not, if you’ve done your research and have developed characters that reflect the traits and attitudes of real customers, you will come up with some surprising results.
Once you go through this process once or twice, perhaps switching roles, and maybe even getting other people involved, you’ll feel more comfortable with the state of the product and can THEN start approaching customers to see what they think and take their feedback.
So this process is very flexible. It can be used during the development cycle at any point as a checkpoint to make sure things are progressing as planned and the product developers haven’t gone too far off track.
Let me know if you try this process and how it goes. I’d love to get some feedback to see how it works for folks.
Thanks for your time! Hopefully this series has been helpful and you have a new tool in your arsenal for product planning and development.
Until next time…