Or, How We Rallied a Product Team Behind Color-Coded Charts
The Kano methodology is a tool that categorizes product features into five emotional response types to priority. These emotional response types are distinguished by how a feature’s functionality or performance effects a user satisfaction with the product. Now, I’ll cover some of this Kano goodness here, but if you want the lay of the land, there is nothing better than this Folding Burritos article. It is a sacred text.
Attractive features are unexpected or delightful features in a product. Including these types of features automatically boosts a user’s satisfaction. They may even forgive limited functionality for a time since they’re so jazzed this feature is included.
One-Dimensional features (sometimes called Performance features) are considered the “bigger-is-better” features. This applies to any adjective in its comparative form (bringing it back to elementary school grammar, folks). The bigger, faster, or easier a feature is, the more satisfaction it will bring to users. That’s due to it’s linear relationship with functionality! These types of features are tricky though — due to their linear relationship, if functionality or performance suffer so does satisfaction.
Assumed features (sometimes called Must-Have features) are features that users assume would be in a product. Users aren’t going to go crazy over these features, but they sure will be bummed if they’re not included.
Indifferent features are features that users are (you guessed it) indifferent towards. No matter how many bells and whistles you throw into this feature, you probably won’t get a good return on satisfaction.
Undesired features actively chip away at user’s satisfaction. The more time you spend improving these features, the less satisfaction you’ll get out of your users.
I know what you’re screaming at this point — “ALEXA, HOW DO I FIGURE OUT WHAT TYPE OF FEATURE MY FEATURE IS??” Well, it’s actually pretty easy! All you have to do is ask two questions: the functional question and the dysfunctional question.
These questions seem straightforward, and they are! The most important thing to remember is that the five answer choices are distinct answers, it’s not a scale. Then, based on how a user or many users answer the question pair, you can categorize a feature.
For example, let’s imagine our product is a car. One of the features we’re thinking about including in this car is a steering wheel. If you were to ask a user “if you had a car with a steering wheel, how would you feel?”, they would probably answer “I expect it”. And then if you asked “if you had a car that did not have a steering wheel, how would you feel?”, they would probably answer “I dislike it”. Therefore, since the functional (if it was included) was “I expect it” and the dysfunctional (if it was not included) was “I dislike it”, this drops you firmly in the Assumed emotional response type. Now you would know that users expect this feature in your product — you may not get bonus points for including it, but users would be disappointed if it wasn’t there.
Another feature you’re considering for your car is heated seats. If you were to ask a user “if you had a car with heated seats, how would you feel?”, they might answer “I like it”. And then if you asked “if you had a car that did not have a heated seats, how would you feel?”, they may say “I can tolerate it”. Therefore, since the functional (if it was included) was “I like it” and the dysfunctional (if it was not included) was “I can tolerate it”, this may be an Attractive feature!
Whew. That was a lot, right? Again, review the bible that is this Folding Burritos article and if you have any questions, hit me up!
New methods are cool and all but the Kano experience I really want to share is some insights into how we got multiple product teams to begin adopting and internalizing this methodology.
1. Be inclusive
The first order of business was including product teams from the very beginning. All feature descriptions were collaboratively created by our thematic, cross-functional teams. They are the ones who truly understand the feature inside and out and therefore are the best candidates for providing the feature descriptions we shared with participants
2. Create a shared vocabulary
This is a great tip with any cross-functional project — speak the same language! Since there are multiple different terms for the five emotional response types, decide what is best for your organization and stick with it across every presentation and every discussion. You may be surprised how quickly it will catch on, allowing for a shared understanding across the team. We even had folks betting how many of their features would be considered Attractive! Don’t forget to consider a visual vocabulary as well. As you may have noticed, all of the material we created to evangelize the Kano methodology is color-coded. This ensures there is one source of truth across our messaging.
3. Give actionable insights
Now that your users have classified features into their emotional response types, the next question your team may ask is “so what?” Like any good research, data analysis is not enough. You have to synthesize and provide recommendations. Users categorized a feature as Indifferent — what should we do when a feature lands there? This may look different for each organization or even for each product! But here’s another handy chart to start with:
4. Share broadly
Don’t stop with your product or cross-functional team! After it started taking off on our floor, we went on a multi-stop tour preaching the good word of Kano. We went to the Marketing team, our Development team, and even hosted a session at our local General Assembly.
These share-backs can take multiple forms — from a quick introduction to an in-depth skill share. We even hosted a session in which we had participants fill out their own Kano survey! They got to build their ideal fancy dinner (product) by answering questions about various dishes (features). We then walked participants through a live analysis of their responses. It was epic — like getting to watch a surgeon do a heart transplant.
5. Sit back and watch the evolution
Be patient. You’ve had all of this time to internalize the Kano methodology, but others are still learning. Once our colleagues started adopting Kano we began noticing changes in other projects too. The Product team started pushing for more qualitative interviews, concept testing, and participatory design. And of course we were more than willing to oblige! If we wanted to get those features into the Attractive category, we had to really understand what would make or break a feature for a user. Kano also became the catalyst to champion user-centered workshops and collaborative data analysis as our product teams were clamoring to get a deeper understanding of their Kano results.
tl;dr introducing the Kano methodology gave our cross-functional teams a shared vocabulary for discussing our product and opened the door for more user-centered research. Maybe it can help your team too!
Written by Alexa Carleo
Alexa is a User Experience designer turned researcher. She specializes in mixed method research including in-depth interviews, usability testing, needs analysis, and feature prioritization. Colleagues know her as Alexa “tell-me-a-little-bit-more-about-that” Carleo.