“The Mom Test” is a very pink book, originally published in 2014, written by Rob Fitzpatrick. As he is described on the book cover, Rob “is a tinkerer and tech entrepreneur”.
But the sentence that caught my attention from the book description is this one:
“They say you shouldn’t ask your mom whether your business is a good idea, because she loves you and will lie to you.”
Though my first reaction is to disagree, my mom is always telling me the truth. She has a special predisposition to tell me that I’m wrong or that she doesn’t like what I do. But, hey… that’s my mom.
So, what’s happening when I’m asked if an idea is good? Who are the people that lie to us? Why do we lie?
As a User Experience Designer it’s my responsibility to encourage a user-centered culture. No matter the product you are building, be it a service, a mobile application or an interactive exhibition, you should adopt a bottom-up approach.
Start with your users. A very popular quote, but true, says:
“Want your users to fall in love with your designs? Fall in love with your users.” Dana Chisnell
This means we need to know the people who will use our products and services. We should try to understand their needs, the context of use, the constraints, their behavioural patterns, the current solutions they’re using.
Should I continue?
How do we do that? We talk. We ask questions. We observe. We listen.
One of the biggest mistakes I noticed during my interviews is that we talk too much, we lead the answers and get too excited about our own ideas and products.
“Once you start talking about your idea, they stop talking about their problems.“ (page 36)
We are not supposed to sell, to say that, hey, look, we have a solution for your needs that is gonna solve one of your biggest problems that you were not even aware that you had! No, no, no! Don’t even bother mentioning that it’s your idea or the team that is with you are the designers. People have a tendency to protect your feelings, so if they start complimenting you or you can sense a strong feeling of detachment coming from them, you are officially being lied to!
“Compliments are the fool’s gold customer learning: shiny, distracting, and worthless.” (page 23)
We need to understand the “why” behind a compliment.
Another key point that we should be aware of is the questions. Ask smart questions and start broad. While the conversation keeps going, ask more detailed. Why? Why not? How come? The idea is to see if your participants have a problem in the first place, if they can and are willing to change their behaviour and adopt your product.
“You should be terrified of a least one of the questions you’re asking in every
conversation.” (page 40)
You must be willing to accept the truth. What’s the point in having a conversation to validate your idea, if you’re not willing to accept that it’s a bad idea? It’s better to kill a bad idea from the start than to lose time and miss creating other great products.
What do you want to learn? Rob Fitzpatrick seems to be the advocate for non-formal conversations. So, you don’t have excuses to not validate your ideas. You are at the gym and want to do something related to fitness, train and ask. Start from your common hobbies and dig deeper. They would not even be aware that they helped you validate/invalidate an idea.
To sum up, you make sure that nobody lied to you after a meeting, when you leave the
conversation with facts (data about their behaviour, choices etc.) and commitment (they are willing to invest in your idea, such as time) (p.124).
Ask questions, listen and say no to compliments!