Friday, June 18, 2010

Where do I begin?

Begin at the beginning… and go on till you come to the end: then stop.” Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
In my industry, people don't WANT to use your feature, they want to do their jobs.  They didn't wake up this morning and think, "wow, today I want to spend all day using that new feature I found yesterday!!" That may be how things end up, but it certainly was never the goal ;)

So how does your feature help them do their job?
  • What is on their mind when they need your feature?
  • What information do they have in front of them?
  • What are they doing?  (Or at least, what are they trying to do??)
That's your launch point.

"But what if my feature starts from nothing??"

It's certainly easier to create features that add tasks and actions to existing information and objects than it is to create features which start from nothing.  But even if the feature starts from nothing, the user still has a mental model of how things are, and how they should go.  What is in that model?
  1. What things are part of their mental model?
  2. What does the user think is the right place to start?
  3. What are they already familiar with?
  4. Is there anything that exists already?
Hint: the answer to question 4 is always "YES!"  Even if they don't have a computer, they probably have a spot they could put it in.  Think about the set of things that already exist for the user.  What are the environments and tools already at their disposal?  Where do they spend their time?  What do they like to do for fun, and how do they like to do their work?
If you want people to use it, your new feature should feel as familiar as possible; this applies especially the launch point. If (for some immutable reason) your experience has to be fundamentally different from what they already know, you can use your launch experience to ease them into your new world.

I like to think of designing features in terms of getting a new job.  You want your customer to "hire" your feature, to add it to the set of tools they use.  Before your customer will hire you, they will interview you to make sure you will do the job well.  They want to know that you're smart, that you're a hard worker, that you're not a crazy psycho who will steal all the paperclips.

A lot of people ask "why do I need to spend so much time designing an experience that the user will only ever see once, maybe twice in their whole lives?"   To these people I say, "would you show up for a job interview without making sure your clothes are straight and your teeth are brushed?

Your launch experience is your interview with your customer.  Metaphorically speaking, if you need to take the extra 2 hours in your schedule to make sure your clothes are dry-cleaned and pressed beforehand, that time will be well invested, even if they never see that outfit again.  It helped create the first impression that got you the job.

No comments:

Post a Comment