Start Your Day

Goal: Understand When and How Your Customer Uses Your Product

Products aren’t static. They may seem static. But they’re not. Well, at least not like you might think. The product may be static, but our relationship to the product isn’t because it changes based on how we use it. And how we use it changes based on lots of factors, including our age, experience with similar products, or even our location. One of the biggest modifiers of the how we use a product is when we use it. By focusing on the when, you’ll get better insights into the how.

Consider the insulated mug that keeps your coffee hot in the morning and keeps your juice cold in the afternoon. Chances are pretty good that you use your personal financial planning software or services differently when you’re reviewing your monthly budget vs when you’re preparing your taxes. You may rely on your favorite email/scheduling program to help you start your day by planning it and to help you end your day by tracking which “to-dos” actually got done.

The Game

Start your dayAsk your customer to describe the daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly events that are related to their use of your product on pre-printed, poster-sized calendars or a simple time line drawn on a large sheet of paper. Ask them to describe events in time frames appropriate for your product – beginning and ends of days or weeks, recurring events, such as birthdays; one-time events, such as installing a new software system; special events that are unique to an industry or sector (like a conference), or days in which everything goes horribly wrong and they’re looking for help. While they’re doing this be alert for how your product helps – or hinders – their day.

Why It Works

When we ask customers something about our product, they are usually responding to our question based on their most recent experiences. Unfortunately, this creates a very skewed view of how a product works throughout its natural lifecycle. By explicitly asking your customers the “when” of using a product, you’ll substantially increase your ability to understand the “how” to make it better.

More generally, Start Your Day is about exploring different contexts in which your customers use your product. In the game, you vary the time context. As you do this, pay attention to how other contexts change. For example, you might find that you use your favorite email/scheduling program in the beginning of the day from your home office and at the end of the day in work. These contexts vary considerably, and understanding how they vary typically provides you with substantial insight in the problems your customer is trying to solve. You might also explicitly vary one or more contexts that are relevant to your solution: where they use your product, the level of ambient light or noise, or the materials they are using with your product—such as the speed of the computer they’re using to run software, or whether they’re using the garden hose to wash their car, water their lawn, or add water to their children’s sand box.