Many people go about designing products or services based upon what they personally think is the right solution. A biased solution is never the best solution. One of the biggest problems is to build a solution that doesn’t meet the customer’s needs or wants.

Before you can create a project plan or start building prototypes, you need to first understand your problem.


1. Understand the problem

If you don’t first take the time to understand your problem, you may waste all of your time building a project plan and researching customer needs when you don’t actually know what you’re trying to solve.

Getting the right problem statement helps you to make sure you’re maximising impact and building solutions for problems that actually need solving.

“How do we give customers the best mobile experience so they can connect with friends and family?”
“How do we increase mobile phone sales?”

2. Map the experience

Customer Journey Maps are visual representations of a customer’s experience.

There’s no easy way to understand your customer experience, but journey maps can help you gain empathy and identify opportunities to improve the experience.

By mapping the customer journey, you can uncover insights and pain-points, which makes it easier to prioritise improvements.

An effective customer journey map includes:

  • Stages – the level of engagement with your brand
  • Touchpoints – when a customer interacts with your brand
  • Stories – what they experience at each touchpoint
  • Emotions – how they feel throughout the journey
  • Activities – how they interact with your brand

To map your proposed customer journey:

  1. First interview your customers and observe their behaviours
  2. Determine the customer journey stages for your business
  3. Understand your customer persona, their goals and desires
  4. Then, create a Customer Journey to map out the experience
  5. Add stories, interactions and emotional pathways
  6. Ask your customer to review your journey, to check you got it right

3. Speak with prospective customers

To really understand your customers, you need to immerse yourself in their world, understand what motivates them – their needs, wants and desires.

Understanding empathy is crucial to building a solution that your customers will desire and want to use.

The best way to understand your customers needs, desires, fears and opinions is to directly speak with them. Even better, spend a day walking in their shoes, understanding what motivates them and their pain-points.

Relying on verbatim feedback and commentary from friends, family, surveys or research online is simply not enough.

Calling or meeting your customers to understand why they do the things they do will help you to create a solution that the customer actually needs or wants.

  • Telephone: Call your customers asking them why they purchased your product or used your service.
  • Interviews: Invite a small sample of customers for a one-on-one interview asking about their purchase behaviours, what motivates them to understand their fears and desires.
  • Immersion: The best way to understand a customer is to immerse yourself in their lives or communities – you can see how they make decisions and gain deeper empathy.

4. Prototype and test your products or service

When you start to design your solution, you want to make sure it meets the needs of your customers.

However, you don’t want to spend too much time building a solution, especially if you aren’t sure it’s actually what your customers want.

If you really want to create a product or service that meets your customer needs, you need to build prototypes. Unfinished and ugly prototypes.

A prototype is not your actual product, it shouldn’t look like a final product, and it’s important that it’s NOT an actual working version.

Build rough prototypes that are not perfect and do not look nice so your customers can give you feedback on how the solution meets their needs.

Why?

If you make your prototype look perfect, when you ask your customers for feedback they will inadvertently give criticism about the design and aesthetics which is what you don’t want.

  • Create a wireframe for websites – a black and white prototype of the layout of your website.
  • Use placeholders where logos and branding will appear – your solution should focus on the functionality, not the design (colours, brand, etc)

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