Before You Prototype a Tech Product, Ask These 5 Questions
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No one wants to be behind the curve, especially in regards to technology. All too often we see brands jump on a tech trend just to do it. We’ve seen it with augmented reality, mobile and now wearables.
In an effort to be first, brands dive right into building a product without taking the time to understand their audience or think through the important details that will make or break a product launch (and, maybe, a brand) for a consumer.
But you have to move fast, too, and there is a way to get a product to market quickly and correctly -- it’s by understanding your user as deeply as you know your brand. When it comes to prototyping products, I’ve found there are five key questions brands should ask their audience. Once you have these answers, you should be better informed to build a great experience -- one that is useful, usable and desired.
1. What are their pain points? People look to products to address a specific need in their lives. Wearable technology products are no exception. The challenge? Ensure your perception of your audience’s needs align with their actual needs. Build in time to conduct user research, and involve your audience in vetting your prototypes. Skipping this step will result in launching a product with no customers to use it.
2. How have previous solutions fallen short? The wearables market is in a fairly early stage, but analysis of products on the market today can yield insights for new product opportunities.
Fitbit Force was recalled due to allergic reactions to band materials. Fitbit Flex’s clasp doesn’t stay closed. Nike’s first iteration of the Fuelband didn’t include Bluetooth connectivity, and users hated the inconvenience of plugging the device in to upload data.
Use negative ratings and reviews of products on the market today to spark ideas for future products. Forget analyst reports -- just comb through the ratings and reviews of wearables products on ecommerce sites to explore flaws in the product’s hardware and software.
3. What are customers' technology patterns? Once you’ve clarified the audience you’re targeting, don’t forget to take the time to understand their technology likes and dislikes. Does your audience have aversions to technology, or are they ravenous, early adopters? Does a wearable tech product conjure up feelings of "obtrusive big brother" or "useful quantified self"?
4. How will they leverage the product? Knowing how an audience primarily intends to use the product will go a long way in helping to ensure that it’s properly built. Wearable fitness trackers such as the Jawbone Up and the Fitbit Flex are great examples of this -- some people wear those devices simply to know their activity levels while others use them as a comprehensive fitness guide.
You need to know what your audience plans to do with your device. It doesn’t make sense to spend time adding all sorts of unnecessary features into a product if they’ll never be touched by the consumer.
5. What would keep them from buying? While not as paramount to the prototyping process as some of the questions above, knowing what those unacceptable product features are can be incredibly useful information.
Does a reasonable price tag overpower aesthetic? Is a clunky or outdated design a definite deal-breaker? Does functionality trump all?
Understanding what your consumer sees as the most important piece, and building your device to address that, will save your team hassle and frustration down the line.
Remember, once you have answered these questions, you are still at the beginning of a process. You have to now learn from and digest your consumer feedback, turning it into a functional prototype. Then you have to put that prototype through the paces. And you have to give the prototype back to your audience for testing. A constant cycle of development and improvement that will quickly lead to a better, useful, needed solution.
Taking the time to start with your users’ needs will certainly take a bit longer than just pushing a product to market, but, in the end, it will ensure you’re meeting the needs of your audience, which will ultimately bring more success in the long run.
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