Uncovering the world of client briefs and market fit (UX case study)

Seven-weeks into our General Assembly immersive and we finally received our very first client brief. We took a moment to familiarise ourselves with the brief and quickly realised that we were not in Kansas anymore. Similarly to the real world, there is no perfect brief and you have to be armed with curiosity and an arsenal of Whys to uncover what is truly the problem.

Meet the team: Our team was made up of three user experience designers from various backgrounds which brought a unique set of skills and strengths to the project.

  • Monica a dancer who majored in computer science before finding
    her love of user experience.
  • Michael is a minimalist and a mechanical keyboard enthusiast with a background in IT who approaches design with careful consideration.
  • Myself a visual designer who loves research and asking why? But Why?
    More times than anyone wants to hear it.

Given that we’re living through Covid-19 the whole project was conducted online. With this comes a whole new way of dealing with our client and the tools and methods we implemented: Miro, Figma, Paper, Slack, G Suite and Zoom

My Role: Researcher, interviewing and synthesising

The client has requested to remain anonymous therefore I will be using a fictional name, “Enviro”.

The Brief

Our brief was to design a website that extracts and presents data specifically around extreme weather and the risk to property across nine categories to help users mitigate risk. We were also tasked to find a segment of the market that Enviro could target.

Overview

Enviro wants to inform people about the potential risk of extreme weather on their property and help them take steps to mitigate risk. They want to use the best data available to help users plan and invest securely not just for this decade, but the next 50–100 years.

Problem:

Climate change is increasing in severity and intensity, causing extreme weather events in Australia. With this in mind, Australia will need to plan and adapt to some level of climate change.

Climate risk advocate Dr Mallon says “We are still building, buying and selling the wrong kinds of buildings in the wrong kinds of places”.

Timeline:

This was a three-week sprint that was conducted remotely and with an agile mindset. Our team agreed to spend the first two weeks on research and the third week on ideation and delivery of the final product.

Approach:

We followed the double diamond throughout our three-week sprint. Selecting the most effective process that would help us gain the correct amount of insights to move to the next stage.

Goals:

  • Define a target audience
  • Research and understand the market landscape
  • Define MVP (Minimum Viable Product)

Our Assumptions

Given the nature of the brief and our inexperience around the subject matter, we needed to start by aligning our initial assumptions.

Some of these assumptions were:

Image source UXdraw
  • Buyers prioritised things like convenience, utilities and schools
  • Buyers experience cognitive dissonance
  • There is a lack of awareness/education
  • Buyers would want to know the risk of climate change to better insure themselves

Ultimately though that’s all these were, just assumptions. We needed to conduct research to better understand the problem at hand.

Competitive Analysis

The competitive analysis we conducted helped us understand where the opportunities in the market existed. From the research, we found that many competitors fell somewhere in the spectrum of raw factual information to information that provided actual insights.

The other consideration we come across through our interviews were a lot of people either spoke to friends and family that were familiar around the topic or they would conduct a quick Google search.

We did identify that there was an opportunity for a tool to take raw data and translate them into actionable insights.

Comparative analysis

Through comparative analysis, we looked at some examples of best in class when it comes to aggregating information.

  • Well Certified — puts users wellbeing at the forefront of projects by creating a premier standard for buildings, interiors spaces and communities to seek and implement.
  • Compare The Market — not only aggregates data sets for their users, but they also help their users compare features and identify what is suitable for their needs.
  • NCCARF — generates data sets that communicate to government bodies which helps them make decisions around climate change.
  • MOZO — is a comparison tool that has no jargon, is reputable and ensures transparency to their users.

Interviews

Our Users
Our users were between the ages of 25–70, they spanned from city to coast and each had different risks to consider. We gained insights around peoples purchasing process, what their behaviours, emotions and frustrations are.

  1. 14/20 people are aware of potential extreme weather risk
  2. For some it didn’t matter — there was an emotional attachment to something stronger
  3. Users assumed that insurance providers would compensate for whatever risk there might be
  4. Most people associated climate change with being eco-conscious

Our Experts

We wanted to gain insights around tools, practices and methods the experts use to mitigate risk

  1. The information that Enviro could potentially be offering might be surface level and wouldn’t be as deep as they needed
  2. Credibility was a major concern
  3. Their customers weren’t asking questions around environmental risk
  4. People are buying for current needs and not future needs

Mindsets

From our Insights, we identified three key mindsets

  • The Unaware and Unconcerned
  • The Aware and Unconcerned
  • The Aware and Concerned

We continued to flesh them out and agreed we would focus on the “Unaware and Unconcerned” Why? You ask..

Well from our research we understood that “The Aware and Concerned” users would be sceptics at heart and hard to change their behaviours and mindset. The “The Aware and Concerned” user has a fixed mindset which would be difficult to waver as they base a lot of their decisions on emotions which left us with “The Unaware and Unconcerned” these users have no preconceived bias they could be an easier mindset to change/inform, or so we thought.

This led us to our Problem Statement, which we couldn’t as a group agree on, something was not right with our mindsets…

More Research…

To solidify our findings and our thinking we created a Journey Map both on micro and macro level. We mapped out the buyer’s journey to identify where there might be an opportunity for a product fit

What we found out was even though there is an opportunity our users either rely on third-party advice or had strong emotional ties to property and this can affect their decision making.

On a macro level, on average users will go through this journey once every 11.3 years based on the national average length of home-ownership. So if you take that into account people are buying for current needs and not future needs.

Now that I have painted a picture for you from the users perspective lets take a look at the property market.

Property Market

While there was a lack of clear product-market fit here. If the market was large enough and we were able to capture even a small portion it could still be viable.

Image source UXdraw

The Australian property market sits at 10.4m homes.

  • 85% of the population live 50km from the coast
  • 730,000–876,000 properties are at risk of damage or destruction due to climate change.
  • 220,000 properties are uninsurable, this number is set to double in projection in the next decade if we do nothing to reduce our greenhouse gases. This is especially important because if the property is uninsurable, the buyer won’t be able to secure a loan.

Revenue Forecast

What Enviro’s earnings might look like…

Turnover of property is <5% annually nationwide, If we were able to achieve a 10% conversion rate, we would be looking at 4000 potential customers.

Given the current perceived value of the product is $0, it would be difficult to monetise if selling direct to customers. In its current state, the chance of success is seemingly low.

What seems to be the real issue here?

We know that even though the users were aware of the potential risks extreme weather posed, it didn’t matter enough for them to change their buying habits.

But it’s not as if these people were completely irrational, or that they didn’t understand the consequences.

So why was it that users were so willing to put themselves in harm’s way for something that would make them happy?

As it turns out, it’s something that’s wired into us biologically

Emotional decision making

The ventromedial prefrontal cortex is a part of our brain that is responsible for a lot of things, but most importantly it plays a role in the regulation of emotions and decision making.

To put this into context, noted neurologist Antonio Damasio wrote a book on the relationship between emotions and decision making. He discovered that patients that had damage to this region of the brain, lacked the ability to conjure up an emotional state to comprehend the situation and therefore make a decision about what should be done.

Even something as simple as picking which restaurant to eat at became agony for the patients because they lacked the ability to contextualise whether they like the restaurant and instead mulled over all the potential variables

No product fit

We know that there is no product fit at present for Enviro but this isn’t the end of the road. What they can do is leverage the information they do have and create a strong emotional tie to how people think, behave and feel about climate risk.

How?

By starting a movement, conversation or discussion around what is extreme weather risk and what users stand to lose. Just a couple of weeks ago there was a mini tornado that went through Geelong it was on the news and people were expressing how they felt on social media, but just like that it has been forgotten and is yesterday’s news.

Climate change and the risk around extreme weather is real. What we need is someone to start a difficult conversation and make it part of everyday life.

Have you heard of the Scott Pape effect?

The Barefoot Investor — Scott Pape
“It’s more than a book — it’s a movement”
Sold more than 1.6 million copies. Why?

How did a run of the mill financial adviser change the culture of an entire country? Maybe, it’s when you pull out your Orange ING debit card with the words “splurge” written in texter to pay for your coffee and the barista glances over, with a smirk on their face and asks, “The Barefoot Investor?”

Or maybe it due to the recent royal commission when Hostplus chief executive David Elia refers to the “Scott Pape” effect — one man’s recommendation is the direct result of $2.5bn worth of transactions being moved across to a HostPlus super fund.

Much like Scott Pape, Enviro has an opportunity to bring the conversation to the forefront of buyers minds and who knows with a bit of luck and a lot of hard work this could become a part of the home buying process and change a nation.

Next steps:

Some ways Enviro could start the conversation:

  1. Podcast Series e.g. Joe Rogan podcast recently sold its rights to Spotify for $100m and has over 90 million monthly listeners. Proving that it’s an effective way to build a big following through long-form discussion about important topics.
  2. Write a book (what is climate change risk mitigation and why is it real) as per the Scott Pape example it only takes one person to help change the culture of a nation.
  3. Build a social presence By managing Enviro’s social presence there is more opportunity to increase your visibility and even become a thought leader in the space.

What I took away

  • Recruiting people to participate in interviews is hard, especially when you have no budget. Allow lots of time to ensure you capture the right audience.
  • Teamwork can make or break your project. Being able to discuss and challenge each other we were able to find what was, and wasn’t working.
  • Stand up for your research and most of all the user.
  • Even though you empathise with your client and understand their business goals, sometimes a business model is not viable and you need to be real and honest with them.

Thanks for reading my article. If you have any questions, please comment or message me.

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Michele Mason

Michele Mason

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