With that in mind, we thought it would be helpful to provide links to some of the tools and resources that we use or have used to inform our process. Since there are about 20 total, we address these over three blog posts with each addressing a major phase of new product development.
So without further ado, let's start at the beginning with the tools and resources we use in the discovery phase.
Start With "Why"
While it's not specifically about new product development, listening to Simon Sinek's famous "Start With Why" TED talk is a great reminder of the power of "why," which - if you're doing it right - is a question you will be asking a lot in the discovery phase.
Smashing Magazine's A Closer Look at Personas: What They Are and How They Work provides a detailed primer on the following:
- What personas are
- What a good persona looks like
- How user personas can fit into the design process
- How to create user personas
- How and why personas work
UsabilityNet's Overview of User Interviews breaks this important tool into multiple sub-phases:
- Planning: The key tactics for planning successful user interviews.
- Running: The process of conducting effective user interviews using a four step process: nurturing, energizing, body and closing. Pro tip: While the "body" of the interview yields the largest quantity of information, the "closing," which is the most open and least structured part of the interview, can yield some of the most valuable insights.
- Reporting: Since the qualitative nature of interview output is open to misinterpretation, UsabilityNet suggests breaking up the responses from each interviewee into a simple set of propositions.
Contextual inquiry is a great way to get to your target user's pain points, aspirations and behavior when using your product in their own environment. The Usability Body of Knowledge's Contextual Inquiry article shares four principles of contextual inquiry:
- Focus: Plan for the inquiry, based on a clear understanding of your purpose.
- Context: Go to the customer's workplace and watch them do their own work.
- Partnership: Talk to customers about their work and engage them in uncovering unarticulated aspects of work.
- Interpretation: Develop a shared understanding with the customer about the aspects of work that matter.
We like using contextual inquiry because it can provide a deeper level of information about work practices and the social, technical, and physical environments of the user, allowing us to define requirements, improve a process, and learn what's important to them in the context of their real life.
Use cases allow us to clearly document the steps along a path to completion, which is especially helpful when evaluating initial screen designs. In turn, this helps us better establish the complexity of the product we're planning.
Usability.gov's how-to on Creating Use Cases provides:
- Items that a use case does and does not include
- The elements of a use case
- Seven steps to take when writing a use case
- Real-world examples
We highly recommend writing use cases as narratives, following the steps outlined in the article, so you can create a clear picture of the product's behavior in the context of the user's requests.