But what does it mean? Well, one thing that I see a lot these days is teams that are trying desperately to be innovative. Oftentimes, what this turns into is something along the lines of being innovative just for innovation’s sake. They might, for example, focus solely on some piece of technology (the Apple Watch, say), or some new style (e.g., Flat Design), or some new function (multi-touch gestures?), or some new method (gamification, anyone?). Whether that actually does something for their users, whether that actually solves a real user problem, seems to kind of get lost in the shuffle.
What these designers don’t realize is that, one, users really don’t care. Users typically just want to get their task done. If that involves all sorts of wild and crazy stuff, fine. If it simply involves boring things like tabs and radio buttons, well, they’re fine with that too.
What these designers also don’t realize is that, if they would only focus on the user’s actual problem, they might end up being very innovative indeed. In fact, a typical follow-up to the above quote is “… and the rest will follow.” What designers really need to understand is that all that cool stuff that they often fall in love with is simply a means to an end.
So, how to identify, and focus on, those user problems? Well, I’ve always been a big fan of ethnographic research (also known as field studies). This method looks at users in their own context (the office, a retail store, their car, the couch at home), doing their own tasks, with their own goals in mind. That way, you can identify what’s working, what’s not working, the pain points, the gaps (and that involves the user’s whole experience, not just their interaction with computers, by the way). Next, all you need to do is sit down and analyze all the data that results (good old-fashioned affinity diagramming is my favorite way to do this). You can then brainstorm – and innovate – ‘til the cows come home.
Though I really couldn’t find a source for this quote,
a lot out there seems to point to these guys
(I'm not surprised)
(I'm not surprised)