User experience & product design has come a very long way from being amongst the last team/person to be consulted on a product to now being placed at the very the beginning of product & feature conceptualization stage. A lot of thought and debate has gone into the proper placement of the UX team in an organization- does it report to engineering? marketing, perhaps? maybe as an independent, standalone team? I personally find that UX is best placed when paired together with the product management team as an equal stakeholder. I will elaborate on this in another post.
The main reason I find this organizational placement extremely advantageous is because when you combine expertise in user behaviors & trends (UX) with deep knowledge of customer segments & the business (Product management), a wider focus on product possibilities early on in product discovery process is much greater than the sharper focus on product objectives, or constraints.
When it comes to evaluating these product possibilities objectively & rapidly, I think there is a few things a designer can borrow from the lean entrepreneur toolkit. These are cheap, strategic and rapid ways of understanding how customers will react to the product possibility. This type of thinking/prototyping comes in even ahead of traditional user research and usability testing in my opinion because it deals with assessing the core market demand for the product/service idea & not on a form of expression of the idea. UX may design for desire but doesn’t really test for desire early, a lean entrepreneur does (because their whole business model hinges on this desire). Desire testing or more formally “product-market fit” is essential if your objective and/or charter is to create products & services customers love; you know the ground breaking, innovative, disruptive types. And the lean way of doing just that would be to figure out the desire piece even before we create the first mock-up, prototype or even enlist user research.
Demonstrating demand or showing evidence of value hasn’t been on the UX radar so far. But, without that we are only really designing great experiences and interfaces for ideas that fundamentally may not resonate with users. It is time to take design thinking & tools even further upstream to where core ideas germinate.
I’ll discuss particular techniques that I find useful in part 2 of this post.