Mercury Day 6: Assumptions

Something that’s been nagging at me since I started this process was that I’m making a lot of assumptions. These are assumptions like the best form of this UI and about users that don’t exist yet. I’m not really sure how to validate those assumptions. I could solicit feedback from other designers, but could turn into an echo chamber really quickly, and they too would suffer from the lack of users and data that I’m experiencing now.

There’s no shortage of data about general user behavior. Take Luke Wroblewski’s blog and Twitter feed for example. It’s often a very great source of information and statistics about user behavior and trends. Those are great guidelines to work from but they may not always correlate directly to into this context.

Until I get users interacting with the application, I feel like I’ll be painting with broad strokes and taking choreographed stabs in the dark. So far my best idea to validate my assumptions, is document what those assumptions are and be in a position to make changes when I’ve made an obviously wrong one.

I’ve been reading Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days by Jake Knapp. In it, he shows his developed method for conducting sprints to validate ideas and solutions in a real world context. I’m not entirely sure how his formula could breakdown to my situation (because I don’t have an application yet) but I’m interested to see if his focused approach can permeate some of the thinking I’m putting into this project.

All it really breaks down to is:

  1. Know your audience
  2. Prototype
  3. Get ideas in front of people
  4. Iterate from what you find out

One of the reasons I’m applying the Show Your Work ethic is to get ideas out in front of people and explore things in more depth.

I had a conversation with Brannon McAllister, co-founder of Noisetrade; he’s been a friend for the last few years and he challenged a lot of the assumptions I had already made. I kept assuming that reading and music listening were completely analogous to each other, that people had the same idea of curation of both types of content.

Music and reading are similar in some respects but they’re really different in other aspects. Reading is an active and engaged activity, while listening to music can be a rather passive consumption. Reading for a lot of people is focused on ideas and themes (especially non-fiction) and music is often about curating content from sources (bands/arists/labels) that you have existing loyalty toward.

For instance, I’m really interested in the ideas Ethan Marcotte or Austin Kleon might have to share but I’m going to investigate before I invest in their next books. Music on the other hand, that investigation is done passively. I love Radiohead, I will buy their next album the second it drops; Bon Iver I’m a little less loyal to, but when their next album comes out, I’ll listen on NPR or wherever it’s streaming and go on doing other things.

My assumption was that people would be interested in curating their stacks of books in the same way they’d want to populate their Spotify (or Rdio library) and based on my conversation with Brannon, this is a false dichotomy.

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