Arnold Clark
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Arnold Clark

“What is Chrome?”

Or, why developers should always talk to their users

Photo by Kevin Clark on Unsplash

A shocking tale

Picture the scene: a Product Owner, a Developer and a Tester are standing in the cramped back office of an Arnold Clark service centre in Ayrshire. We’ve come to share the result of our previous sprint, an MVP that will allow the staff here to track the cars they have on-site.

At present they do this by generating a mountain of paperwork, which despite being fastidiously filed, tracked, and stored is taking up an ever increasing share of office space. We’ve just put this whole process online, which should make life easier (and a little more spacious) for everyone.

We have a session with the team who do this work to walk them through the new app. One of them is having an issue with the way records are displayed on her desktop. This is an MVP, it’s not perfect and it works better in some browsers than others, so our dev asks her to switch from IE to Chrome. In reply, she asks a simple question; “What’s Chrome?”

Our developer is shocked, can’t believe someone would ask that question, it might as well have been “what colour is the sky?”

Photo by Jamie Haughton on Unsplash

The False Consensus Effect

If you’re reading this, I’d bet you’re now thinking THIS IS 2019 HOW CAN SOMEONE NOT KNOW WHAT CHROME IS!!!!!!!¹. Well, clearly it’s easy for someone to not know what Chrome is. Even in 2019. Which is why it’s so important that developers meet their users.

Our Digital Product Development department is only a hundred or so people, developing products for a company with 13,000 members of staff and millions of customers. We’re situated in the company’s swish new HQ, at a distant remove from the day-to-day reality of most of our fellow employees.

In these circumstances it’d be the easiest thing in the world for the small, tech-savvy, mostly young(ish), mostly male(ish) workforce of DPD to believe that their opinions, experience and knowledge were representative of the much larger, more diverse group of people that make up the other 99% of Arnold Clark’s workforce. In DPD, even a luddite History graduate PO like me knows what Chrome is.

There’s even science to back this up. Meet the false consensus effect:

This bias is especially prevalent in group settings where one thinks the collective opinion of their own group matches that of the larger population. Since the members of a group reach a consensus and rarely encounter those who dispute it, they tend to believe that everybody thinks the same way.

Without taking deliberate corrective action, we’re in danger of developing software that only software developers want to use. Which would be very bad indeed.

So, our user doesn’t know what Chrome is?

Well, so what?

Most developers I’ve worked with do the job because they’re interested in software, and they all love tinkering with the newest, shiniest things. So they know a lot more about this stuff than the average person.

The job of our service centre admin staff is to track company stock, and they know a lot more about this than we do in DPD. Knowing one browser from another doesn’t feature on their job spec.

As a PO it’s my job to bridge this gap, and make sure we develop software as a means of solving problems for our users, not as an end in itself. The easiest way to do this? Get our developers face time with our users, which benefits everybody.

Our user got to learn about Chrome, but more importantly in the same conversation we learned that we’d missed at least two crucial things in the new app; they needed to know if a car had already been sold, and to know if it had been invoiced. We didn’t know about these requirements because they were both being tracked unofficially outside of the existing formal process.

So a happy ending, and a lesson in why it’s good to talk.

Photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash

¹I’d even bet you were thinking it in all caps with at least that many exclamation marks.

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Arnold Clark Digital Product Development

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Ross Stiven

Ross Stiven

Product Manager

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