Doing user research

Because I started Bloon as a side project, I made the big mistakes of building the product before doing user studies. Talking with a few friends casually, which I did, does not count. They will almost always agree with you even if they think you’re off anyway. And unless you’re asking the right people, they will not have thought about and researched your problem as much as you have. You can’t be objective when you’ve spent a good amount of time going in a certain direction; you’ll be fishing for answers that support your hypothesis (confirmation bias).

I thought that I understood the problems of an organizer, despite not being much of an organizer myself. I thought their problems were the same ones that were preventing me, a non-organizer, from organizing as much as I wanted to. I didn’t even notice there difference between the two when I was building Bloon on the fly, but these problems are very different. Organizers are the ones who would use Bloon, not non-organizers. I should have just completely focused on the problems of organizers. And the only way I could understand their problems is to talk to them.

It’s tough to tell whether you have the special insight that makes you the right person to solve the problem, or that you’re the delusional and wasting your time chasing something that’s irrelevant. You have to judge whether or not you’re in a better position in see that special insight than the people you’re talking to. To figure out whether a problem is worth solving, find people who are dying to for a solution to the problem you’ve identified. Later, you can show them high fidelity mock-ups of how you would solve the problem to see if you’re on the right track.

For Bloon, the biggest problems that organizers faced were:

  1. People not responding
  2. People flaking
  3. Splitting costs
  4. Scheduling

What are organizers’ motivations?

  1. They enjoy getting their friends together
  2. They get control over the activity and who gets invited

Other things I should have figured out:

  • Would users want to hang out with friends more often. Why or why not?

  • Better understand motivations for organizing

  • Understand that it must be easier to use than alternative methods of organizing (if the value proposition isn’t 10x alternative methods’)

  • What would make someone try out a new service and convince all your friends to sign up too? Can this be quantified?

  • Quantified how big of a problem each of these problems listed above are (in $s?). Does this intersect with the above question?

  • Shown high fidelity mockups to organizers before building

For a lot of viral social applications, I think that the problem they’re solving is not one that consumers necessarily notice. They won’t explicitly tell you that they need an app that filters their photos because they don’t look good enough (Instagram), and they won’t tell you that they’d share more photos with their friends if they weren’t permanently recorded (Snapchat). You may be able to gleam these insights if you ask the right questions though, and if you go deeper down to understand users’ motivations and emotions. Why don’t you share more photos? I don’t have any photos to share. (vs.) Why do you share photos? To show off to friends. How could you show off even more? Make the photos look better is an answer.

I misestimated the size of organizers’ problems. While I still think they’re decent sized problems, the switching costs (from their current communications platform: email, text, etc) for organizers is even greater.