How high fiving strangers helps me design products
In November 2015 I attended Producthunt Hackathon in London. More than 100 designers, developers and startup interested people were gathered to create something with the potential to empower a community. My team and I won a 2nd place with our product, Steps.
Steps helps people overcome social anxieties with fun and progressive challenges. Social anxieties are the biggest reason for not achieving the things we want in life. The fear of speaking in public, talking to strangers or just speaking your mind in a meeting is something that somehow affects us all.
Just a few years ago I would not have been able to share my idea on stage at a hackathon and definitely not write a blogpost about it! But I decided to overcome my fears, simply by practicing it. I later found out that this method is called Exposure therapy. It means you confront your fear, in order to become less afraid. Therapists use this technique to treat fear of flying, fear of dogs, fear of bacteria etc. and Exposure therapy is the most effective treatment for social anxieties.
Unfortunately exposure therapy is an unknown method to the majority of people, and this is exactly what we want to change.
Since the hackathon we have been validating the idea. Mapping out the market, talking to therapists and most importantly testing with users. The usual approach to testing would be to build a prototype, but instead we started Pretotyping. Pretotyping means you don’t build anything, but instead do the absolute minimum to get validation. We started with SMS. We built a robot sending out daily challenges to 20 selected users, some strangers, some friends, some introverts and some extroverts. They could either “Skip” or “Accept” a challenge by replying to the text message. The idea was good, but SMS was expensive and we spent too much time on technical issues. With a robot between us and our users we didn’t get the feedback we needed, and we lost motivation and 3 members.
“if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”
We started building too early and found out way too late. We had to make it even simpler and get rid of all tech. So we came up with the idea of using Facebook. We invited 10 people to a chat-group, and charged every participant $1. Together we completed 3 challenges and by documenting it we shared our experiences. The first challenge was to high five a stranger.
This made it so simple for us to observe and get feedback from users. The chat felt less robotic and it gave people a sense of community which is now one of our main product visions. Most importantly we went from our initial idea to gathering insight in only a few days.
Anxiety disorders are the most common and costly mental illness, and we need to rethink what can be done. We’re a team of two. Jesper is a full stack developer and myself, a product designer. We want to work together with therapists to help us understand our users and make sure we provide them with the right help. We will be setting up a new chat group next week, if you’d be interested in testing or helping out please get in touch, email@example.com. It would mean a great deal to us and to the people who need it.