In Part 1 of this post, we looked at how problem interviews can be a useful technique to understand the problem you’re trying to solve and whether or not it’s worth solving. In this second part, we’ll look at where to go from there: exploring and validating valuable solutions for your customer. Again, I’ll be using the example of how this technique impacted development around our WYSIWYG editor.
Having discovered and understood our problem to be story articulation (giving form to a story through text, images and other formatting) using our wiki editor, we set out to explore the solution space by conducting a series of collaborative sketching (design charrettes) sessions with stakeholders. This resulted in 17 concepts, from which we identified 10 patterns. Far too many from which to choose. Which one was “right”?
To validate which solution concept was most effective at resolving our problem of story articulation, we conducted a series of solution interviews. To be clear, a solution interview is not user testing or usability testing. A solution interview is a method to validate your assumption that what you’re building will solve their problem. It’s focused on the solution and its efficacy at solving the problem at hand.
Unlike problem interviews, where your users are doing most of the showing, solution interviews require you take the stand to show your proposed solution. However, you still mostly watch and listen. But again, it’s all about how.
(Hint: it’s not just presenting a solution, but how you present it)
The solution interviews we conducted helped us both identify the most effective solution and provide early and continuous feedback through multiple iterations. Here’s what we learned about conducting a successful solution interview.
Scenario: You’re reviewing a story and realize that a mock-up would help developers understand the written content and how it should look within your product. Please update your card to include mock-up.
Success Criteria (not given to the user): The user is able to easily insert desired image with no surprises or discomfort. She intuitively knows how to move it within the card. (Pay attention to whether or not the user attempts to use D&D functionality.) Make sure the user understands the scenario before you leave and she begins.
Jumping to building solutions is a nearly universal reaction, which often leads to building something--and perhaps something even great--that fails to solve the problem at hand. However, returning to understand the problem, and quickly validating multiple solutions in continuous feedback cycles, can help you build the right thing, faster.
For the Mingle team, using an interviewing methodology of problem and solution interviews better ensured we designed the most appropriate solution, faster by helping us understand the problem from our customers’ point of view and paint a picture of what a “day in their life” looked and felt like. With this deep understanding we were able to confidently attack their most painful problems and generate multiple solutions, validating the most successful both quickly and iteratively.
The point is, in the spirit Einstein, understand the problem and the solution will emerge.
Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.