When developing a new product, three important questions often arise. First, what problem are you trying to solve? Who are you solving it for? What is the best solution? The second question is one that Brittany Morton and Mollie Callahan from Menlo Innovations narrowed in on when speaking at the recent +Tech Literacy Download Event, which ran from Oct. 4 to Oct. 7 at the Michigan Ross School of Business.
In their session on Oct. 6, Mortona and Callahan presented Menlo Innovation’s High-Tech Anthropology, a methodology to study end users in their natural habitat and develop user personas for optimal product development. To develop the best products, the High-Tech Anthropologists believe that it’s important first to understand the user and the problems they encounter. The first step involves studying users in their environment to get a first hand account of their experiences and problems. Researchers can then identify and clarify user behaviors, since users are typically unaware of their own actions and decision-making.
The next step is to use these observed user behaviors to define what problem needs to be solved. As Morton describes, “people frame problems in terms of solutions before they’ve even validated that that problem exists in the real world.” Product teams need to build consensus around the needs of their users, what problems are being faced, and how they might succeed at resolving those problems. By adopting a user-centric view of problem solving, product teams can ensure they are building the right product directed at the right issue and audience.
Once teams have agreed upon a problem statement, the next step is developing user personas. User personas are composites of real users, inspired by observed behaviors in the real world that represent the needs of a larger group. Integrating user personas allows stakeholders to understand and prioritize user voices, and serve as a reminder as to why they are solving the problem.
On their own, user personas are a limited tool. Menlo Innovations expands their purpose by mapping primary, secondary, and tertiary personas onto the problem statement. According to Morton, “if you try to solve a problem for everybody, you will effectively solve it for nobody.” User persona mapping allows product teams to both build consensus on which end user needs they want to meet and narrow the scope of the solution to be most effective for the core users. This exercise ultimately forces development teams to make decisions around the needs of the prioritized users, and not stakeholders. Ultimately, following a product development process like the one outlined by Menlo Innovations enables developers to build the right solution for a specific problem and address the exact needs of its core users.
Additional follow-up resources:
- More on High-Tech Anthropology: https://menloinnovations.com/services/high-tech-anthropology
- User Persona Template: https://www.invisionapp.com/freehand/templates/detail/persona-profile-template