How to uncover the difference between what users say and what they will do

I had a beautiful moment today in customer research of revealing the difference between what people say they do and what they will actually do. I had created an activity for participants to complete in pairs around how they wanted an app to work which involved them choosing desired features.

As I looked around the room and saw the feature wishlists of the pairs forming on the walls around the room, I could see a range of features we had discounted based on earlier user research. I was trying to figure out what we had possibly missed from our earlier analysis, or what may be unique to these particular users we had recruited. We finished the activity and the pairs shared their rationale behind each of the features they had on their lists. Each pair explained their thinking clearly and quite convincingly. While I was listening to them, it made sense why they wanted these features.

However, once I asked them to choose their top three features, the conversations were so rich and full of data about what really mattered that those logical arguments from the activity before started to fall away. Going through a process of prioritising and explaining why they were choosing what they wanted the app to be able to do gave us far more insight into what this app needed to be able to provide. We started to move past rational thinking and tap into how the app could fit into their lives and habits. This activity was really helping to get to the things that really mattered to potential users, and therefore what we needed to focus on. It was a great reminder of how ranking and prioritisation can help to tap into what users really want, and move beyond what they think will be ‘nice-to -haves’, even if they can make a logical reason for wanting a feature.


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