return to blog

Picking your users brains.. not literally

Launching a SharePoint intranet & the branding is done? what do your users actually want? That’s the hard part..

“I don’t know what I want but when I see it I will know”

Now is the time to explode! We have all been in a situation when I client or potential new client mutters that sentence or something very similar. If it is a potential client then it is hard to say “come back to when you know what you want” in fear of losing your potential new client, if you are already working with the client it can be a slightly easier to guide them in YOUR direction.

Picking those brains can be a messy task, not literally but the complexity is (I am guessing) the same. I am often asked to run design work shops and talk to clients to find what they want from their website or intranet. In this blog post I will focus on my way to pick those brains and extract from the client what they REALLY want not what they think they want.

The way to approach this is the way I would approach my 6 year old boy who often says – I want, I want, I want, which often translates to I want, I need, I’d love. He doesn’t need that replica Darth Vader helmet and yes I know he’d love to have the new mountain bike but he definitely does need the Buzz Lightyear school bag. So taking that on board this is how I then approach my clients in gaining basic design and structure elements with three steps – I want, I need, I’d love.

Using an example recently a client explained to me that getting people on board to use their intranet was an uphill struggle and that people didn’t really care about the intranet or use it. The first questions I asked was – Do they need to use it? His answer – not sure. The first part of launching or thinking of launching an intranet is understanding what your work force needs because everyone is busy and if they can do something quicker to make their day, life or job easier then they will, so why not take that on board?

The background to this little design process originated from working with Andrew Woodward of 21apps. He is an advocate of Agile Scrum development methodology and during my time working with him I designed some post-it notes that asked 3 basic questions – As a *insert job role* , I would like to *insert task here* , so that I can *insert ultimate goal here* . By asking these questions you create scenarios that identify what users actually want as opposed to developing what you think they want.

Taking that all on board I created my “I want, I need, I’d love” to which I am trying to think of a fancy name for – suggestions on a postcard! So how does it all work – it simply asks your users what they need to help them do their job better, what they would want as an idea and if they could have anything, what would they want.

What you need to remember is that asking open ended and fluffy questions can do two things; you’ll either get good answers or you will be pleasantly surprised by weird answers! But what is important is the engaging of the users and finding out what they want, need and love to have.

I need…

I start off with this one, straight to the point & potentially shocks the system into thinking what do they need. Leading from this I would normally ask – “what do you need to make your job easier”. Whether it is an area instead of a network drive to hold documents or it being an FAQ area detailing the common questions they get asked every day, this will hopefully get the people on your side and work with you to develop your intranet.

I want…

People use the internet more and more each day and with the boom in online applications such as internet banking, social networking, shopping etc. people know what they like, what is easy to use and don’t like – it is unlocking this that is the hard bit. Asking people what they want is a more of an open question which can show you want kind of users you have. By identifying what they want can suggest what they actually need for example as users once said to me, I want an area so I can feedback to my team about seminars & training days etc – we suggested setting up a blog which worked perfectly.

I’d love…

I would prepare yourself for this – this question has thrown up all kinds of answers some I recall – a dating area, a buy n’ sell area, Facebook in-house because they cant get on it in work hours and a car share system. Most of the ideas you will think are silly, yes they may be and many of the ideas wont be implemented due to company fear or unprofessionalism – we are here to do a job right? but some ideas will and can prove to be great and beneficial. One particular one idea we had was the car sharing system, which was put into operation and cut car usage by 30% in the organisation which from a environment point of view can only be positive – so you see, there are a few gems out there!

Recap…

Now the brain of your users is ticking, things are cooking up in there and hopefully ideas are getting spat out by the second. By doing this exercise on post-it notes it is something that can be kept and logged in as a development plan or some kind of wish list. What I would do now is recap on the ‘I need’ question – from all the other ideas what do you think you need now, I would ask again – the results will be surprising.

What this process does is two things, first thing is gets users on board from the start and it is much easier having them work with him as opposed to you – put your arm around them, not pushing them away from you. The second thing it does is finds out what they want, it picks their brains.

Another last tip, I would suggest doing this again, maybe with a larger group a month later and maybe have it as a competition – people like to win stuff! Best ideas win a prize and you never know what ideas you may get.

Thoughts and comments welcome.

This entry was posted in End user adoption, User experience and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>