Getting out of the office

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No matter how great your office environment is, sometimes you need to escape and spend some time in the real world. The office can be a great place to work, with everything you need in easy reach, like your favourite coffee mug and your chair in just the right position and it can feel like you are making real progress. Sometimes, its too easy to get carried away with designing and creating something you think people need, but you haven’t actually asked if they need it!

Getting out of the office

People are impulsive and when you think you have stumbled upon the next big thing, sometimes the best thing is to actually stop, rather than plowing into making your idea a reality. Stop and ask yourself these simple questions:

  • Who will use this
  • When will they use this
  • Why will they use this

Knowing who you think will use your project will let you know who your target audience is and will help you focus your design and development to suit them. It’s easy to start a project with the belief that everyone will use this service, but this can lead to a messy final product that doesn’t please anyone.

Knowing when people will use your project will help you create the right sort of content for your project. If your project will be used by people throughout the day then the content may need to be straight to the point. If it will be used in the evenings then the content can be made longer and in more detail.

Knowing why people will use your project may be obvious to you but try and think about it from a users point of view and what they will get out of it.

Great, so now you have all the answers you can get out there and start building! Actually, no. Now you need to get out into the real world and find real people and do some of your own research.

You can start with your friends, but they might give you a biased view. Make sure you say to them that you want them to be as honest as possible with you so that you get genuine feedback. The earlier someone points out issues with your project, the quicker you can plan to overcome them, or, if the issue is too severe, to file the project away and start the next one.

From your friends, now you need to do the tricky work and conduct real research with real users. You defined who you think will use your project earlier so you need to go and try and find them and ask them for their opinions. This is very tricky. Companies spend millions of pounds on market research each year to try and understand what people want and whether their product is for them. You need to do something on a much smaller scale than this.

Start by making some emails and phone calls to relevant businesses, organisations or groups that are your target audience and ask if they would mind giving you some time to ask them some questions. I’m not talking about hours of their time, but a 10 minute slot can provide a lot of initial feedback.

Once you have the timeslot arranged you need to get yourself organised. Write a small speech and presentation that lasts about 1 minute. You want to compress your idea into a very precise presentation that keeps peoples attention. You also don’t want to tell them everything as someone else might try and steal your idea. Next, practise, practise and practise again. You want to be confident in what you are saying and sound fluent and clear.

Present your idea and then listen to what people have to say. Have a notepad to hand and jot down feedback, but make sure it is in a format you can decifer later without too much difficulty. Try not to be writing the whole time so you can chat to people and be interested in their feedback, even if it is critical and not what you wanted to hear. When you are finished talking it’s a great time to write everything down you can remember and go through your notes and clarify them. It’s the best time to do it before it slips from your memory.

Now you have your feedback you can start planning your work. Make sure you plan a time to go back and see the people again so you can showcase your project to them. This will help you launch your project and get people talking about it and hopefully help it to start growing into a success story.

Hopefully, you will see how invaluable getting out of the office can be for your project and getting people onside early will help them become early adopters and help spread the word.

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