Curious? Go cold turkey to gobble the insights

Curiosity is one of a UX researcher’s most valuable traits, but it’s also a vulnerable one.

Yep, despite what he did to the cat, curiosity can be quickly dissolved by a little knowledge. 

Keep one of these guys in your boot.

Keep this guy from harm by being super curious yourself.

Curiosity drives everything from the approach I take, to the way I frame questions during an interview, so having answers in my mind can work against me as I enter customer-land.

I’ve found it’s handy to have a few hunches in my back pocket, but when I’m trying to understand a customer – the less I know about them, the more curiosity I’ll need to find out.

Wary of this, I work hard to defend my naiveté, particularly during the early stages of a project. I’ll try to be selective about what information I take on the road, and what I leave parked in the office…

At kick-off, I usually help my clients brief a recruiter with criteria to fetch a representative sample of customers*. The recruiter provides a schedule and participant list with granular details of every participant - name, address and three contact methods will be their demographics, customer type, attitudes and attributes which were collected when they were screened. It’s an eye-bleeder, but part of the process.

Design-research-spreadsheet

A recruiter typically provides an ugly-but-data-packed spreadsheet with more than you need to know.

During this process I invariably learn about customer segments, what they mean to the business and a taste of the client’s base level understanding of their customer. It gives some insight into each person I’ll meet, but I find it’s better not to know at this stage.

Start with a blank canvas.

To defend my curiosity, I pick only three of these details** to stick to the car dashboard:

  1. Time of appointment
  2. First name
  3. Address
Spare the details: I leave all the other customer information in the office and out of mind.

Spare the details: I only take the basics on the road.

I do this because…

I want to interview a person, not a ‘customer segment’…

Because I’m starting the interview with such minimal information, I let the customer paint me a picture which brings all those details the surface, and it’ll take every bit of my curiosity to draw them out.

It’s a small detail, but I believe this makes a big difference to the pace and direction of the interview.

For example – on my current project, we’re interviewing a mix of three customer types; subscribers, non-subscribers and ex-subscribers. All three are relevant and I don’t want to be pigeon-holing them in my mind before I’ve walked in the door, or for them to feel like ‘they’ve been picked for a reason’.

If I know she’s an ex-customer, a part of me will be wondering, “why did she cancel her subscription?” I’ll be looking for clues, reading between the lines and may draw this to the surface before she’s had a chance to fully describe her context. Or she might detect I’m on this thread and defend her reasons for leaving the service, which isn’t what I want to hear.

… so I prefer to go in ‘cold-turkey’, letting these details all come out ‘in the wash’ in the customers words as part of a natural, unbiased conversation. (at least, that’s the way I want it to feel for the customer).

There’s plenty of time for answers later, these are valuable and expected outputs of any design research project, but I’ve found NOT knowing the answer is the best possible position to be in when you’re heading into the field to interview and observe people interacting with your product.

This is part of trusting your instinct as a researcher, being comfortable with ambiguity and being ‘in the dark’.

Earlier in the year I wrote about how a Calligrapher / Monk / and Ex- Xerox PARC innovation researcher approaches these uncomfortable research situations: Humble pie, served on a bed of chaos.

…but he doesn’t mention being in the dark with a cold turkey?


*If you’re going to invest in spending some time with your customers, it pays to be sure your sample is representative of your customer base and represents the challenges . I believe this is worth taking seriously, and well worth paying a recruitment firm to handle for you.

**Sometimes I’ll add the age and/or gender of the participant. Gender is not always obvious from the name and in mixed households having a little more information helps you get your greeting right at the door.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

Respect, instinct and bedside manner – My patient experience toolkit.

Interview

Design research in a hospital environment is super rewarding. You’ll reveal a wealth of insight and opportunity to improve patient experience but face some unique challenges, especially when interviewing patients at their bedsides.

With a few of these projects under my belt it’s time to share, in case you’re ever in the humbling position to do the same. (yes, more humble pie)


My top tips for patient experience research:

Instinct:

This work will squish everything you’ve got in your soft skill set. You’ll be relying on your instinct for what’s ‘right’ and ‘polite’ in the circumstance. I think doctors call this ‘bedside manner’ …you’re going to need a good one.

Respect and empathy:

visiting-hours

Be considerate - happy hour or not.

It goes without saying to be sensitive to this context.
You’re asking people to share their thoughts or story when out of their comfort zone and feeling vulnerable, emotional, philosophical or all of the above.  Try to relax patients – make them comfortable, offer to top up their water, pass things, adjust curtains, charge their phone.

Authentic moments:

I prefer to ‘cold call’ on patients at their bedside, inviting them to share their experience on the spot. This lacks the certainty of ‘appointments’ but adds in-the-moment authenticity you simply don’t get if you give people the chance to collect their thoughts and arrange themselves in advance.

Mood-reading:

A chatty, social ward is a good place to find stories.

Each ward or room has it’s own atmosphere, from patients trying to sleep while machines gently beep, through to chat and laughter of visiting families. You’ll need to quickly read the mood and adjust your tone and approach to suit. Pick a lively, social ward and you might find patients are more willing to participate. (but beware of the bias this introduces).

Occupational hazards:

While you’re building empathy for each patient’s circumstance and viewpoint, some of their emotional load will shift to you by osmosis. This is a sign you’re doing a great job of listening, but be ready for emotional exhaustion at the end of each day.
To avoid becoming a patient myself, I start necking immune boosters and vitamin C the week before this work and wash your hands frequently during each day.

Introductions – Staff:

It’s essential ward staff know who you are, and what you’re doing in their working space. I’ve always had a chaperone who’s known and trusted by the staff introduce me and the project objectives. Without this, nurses will be suspicious of who you are and what you’re up to.

Introductions – Patients:

“Hi, I’m Nick, and I’m not a doctor”

Patients will assume you’re clinical staff, a specialist, or coming to discharge them, so get any expectation out of the way as part of your greeting.

Leaderboard

Ward staff will point you to the most appropriate patients to talk to, and those to avoid.

Ask staff to suggest which patients are appropriate, and not appropriate to approach. This can save embarrassment for you and patients if they are not completely ‘with it’.

Interviewing:

Maintaining eye contact and looking for non-verbals is essential in this context. You’ll need to record each interview and review later, or bring a note taker.
If it’s your turn to take notes, sketch-noting works very well for feelings, emotions, environmental factors etc. and is super easy to socialise later.

Patients love to see what all that doodling was about, and usually and valuable comment.

Patients love to see what all that doodling was about, and will elaborate on aspects given the chance.

Here are my top tips for sketch-noting during an interview:

Follow-up:

Ask for permission to interview the patients after discharge in their homes. The in-context interview will be revealing, but you’ll hear a different perspective and mood when they reflect on their in-ward experience.

Kit / recording:

Cameras are an even bigger distraction than usual on a hospital ward, so if you’re filming interviews (and it can be very compelling footage in this context) conceal your camera until you have each patient’s permission to film.

Clear audio is a priority.  Patients in a shared ward will tend to whisper out of respect for privacy of others, or so as not to be eavesdropped. Go for a wireless lapel microphone or at least a directional one.

The contents of my bag when I hit the road on an ethnography / contextual inquiry / design research

The contents of my hospital kitbag are sparse compared to this lot for home visits. (image from my article in link below)

Check out my article ‘Ethno unpacked –  A design researcher’s toolkit‘ for details of the gear I use.


Oh, and one more thing…

 SMILE

The more I work in this context, the more I feel like a newbie, and there’s much more to learn.

What have I missed?

What are your experiences?

Games people play during user research

User Research TechniquesA couple of universal truths stand in the way of discovering what people actually think and do:

What people do and what people say are rarely the same.

Equally, what people think, and what they say are very different.

Annoyingly, but reliably, these rear their heads during customer interviews and ethnographic studies – the two main methods I use to gain insights from people.

In practice they work like this:

Customers will alter their behaviour if they know they are being watched, This is known as the ‘Hawthorne effect‘.

And they’ll most certainly have a self-edit running while they are being interviewed, so they’ll tell you the things they think you’re wanting to hear.

Apart from a pretty strong ‘bullshit detector’ and the ability to read between the lines I use ‘games’ to get around these conflicts.

I make simple activities – prompts with words and pictures – for customers to arrange right in front of me.

These help customers express perceptions, beliefs, attitudes, emotions and preferences. Uncovering ‘the why?’ behind these, bringing a richer, more accurate picture to the surface.

Most commonly I use a variation of one of these:

Journey.

Plotting a sequence of events or process by placing items in the order they happened. I often have the participants add a series of ‘emotion cards’ to highlight highs and lows etc.

Here I've used yellow and blue cards as positive and negative emotions. Top marks to this participant for serving cheese and crackers!

Here I’ve used yellow and blue cards as positive and negative emotions. Top marks to this participant for serving cheese and crackers!

Grouping.

This is a bit like a ‘card sort’, but less about categorising and more about arranging by value, importance, usefulness etc.

Design research card sort

Here I asked customers to sort services by value to them – ‘could have’, ‘should have’, ‘must have’ and ‘deal breaker’ – Explaining their choices as they went.

I gained great insight for a retail interior design project by asking customers to arrange images of retail environments.

Mapping.
Working out which goes with what. Great for understanding why people make certain choices.

Customers here were able to map services to their preferred channel. Note: I've included 'It depends' as an option. Because sometimes, it just does.

Customers here were able to map services to their preferred channel. Note: I’ve included ‘It depends’ as an option. Because sometimes, it just does.

As you can see, the materials are bespoke to the project, and I take great care to plan them, keeping them to a manageable number (you don’t want to spend more than 15 mins on an activity like this)

So, here are my top tips:

It’s not data.
These activities are all about the conversation, not collecting data.
There may be some patterns in the arrangements, but on face value they are nowhere near as useful as the thoughts they helped elicit from the customer.
I might photograph the final arrangement, but the real value lies in what the customer has shared in describing it, justifying their placements and what this means to them.

Kickstart a conversation.
Many times I’ve had a conversation go from prickly to fluid around these activities, so it can help break the ice. Perhaps some people are more comfortable with ‘something to do’, during the interview. The customer will visibly relax, letting me into their stream of thoughts, where I want to be.

How to facilitate?
Depending on the person and the topic, I sometimes leave them to complete the activity on their own, making a mental cache of their movements, then reflect on these afterwards, or I’ll have them talk me through every step, (known as ‘think aloud‘ in usability world).

Either way, when I can literally hear them thinking, it’s a good time to prompt them for their thoughts.

Be a ‘thought sniper’.
You’ll want to seem ‘distanced’ from the subject, (they might feel like you’re watching them with one eye as you pretend to check your twitter feed) but you’ve got your sights on their every move.

Watch for the pauses and hesitations, confidence in placement of cards.

Underlying these movements are the nuances which, when expressed verbally, can reveal the kind of insights you’re looking for.

Freestyle.
Always include a few ‘blank’ cards and have a pen handy. You’re unlikely to have covered every eventuality or option in your set of cards, so let customers make their own.

Try to have the activity on a sheet of paper, so customers can draw rings around groups, links between items etc.

What have I missed?

There’s no way in the world I’m the only person who uses these techniques, so if you’ve got something to add, please add it in the comments or send me an example and I’ll add it to the post. Thanks!

8.5 Postcards from People-watcher’s Paradise

Montage

Numerous occupational hazards beset the professional observer of people, their contexts and behaviours.

Absorbing everything in a city as stimulating as Tokyo results in visual and mental overload. Without horses’ blinkers to turn down my senses from default ‘sponge’ setting, it’s taken me several days to process, but here goes…

On day two I met with a design anthropologist well-versed with Tokyo’s back-street charm and a man also unable to switch off the investigative mindset and his need to filter and pattern-spot in such a visually rich environment.

Yep, I was doomed to notice, notice and notice some more.

Here are eight and-a-half of my favourite themes from this wonderful city:

Kerbside clawback.

In a spectacularly vertical city, gutters become fair game for a few inches of horizontal gain where it’s needed, at street level.

Gutters made more user friendly by those who interact with them most.

Honouring the craftsman.

Absolute respect for the makers of everyday things. Mastery of a trade celebrated at an individual level.

Tweezer geezer (top) is a third generation craftsman.

Display perfection.

The art of retail merchandising taken seriously. Objects more beautifully composed and presented, and with far more consideration than I’m used to.

Artfully presented edibles, neatly stacked paper and all labels to the front.

Service culture.

This takes some getting used to. A minute seems like two or three at the complete attention of staff-members as they meticulously wrap and present your purchase. Working in silence and harmony, each knows their role. Every detail executed to perfection.

A bomb could go off while your items are being wrapped and the staff wouldn't flinch.

A bomb could go off while your items are wrapped and the staff wouldn’t flinch.

Visual calm.

The zen of traditional Japanese design. Rhythm, space, balance, warmth, grids, geometry, symmetry.

The Okura. Steve Jobs’ favourite hotel. Mmm.

Visual chaos.

Enough graphic stimulation to make your retinas bleed. Onslaught of type, characters, colour, contrast and a near-zero tolerance policy on negative space.

Half a step into a 100 Yen shop and the information ambush hits you.

Stationery supermarket.

I met my match in the Japanese love of expression through the hand-drawn and written. Pen, paper and ink. Every colour, weight, grade. Acres of it.

Stripes seem to be in fashion for those who like their pen and paper porn.

Greening the fringes.

What little space for green in this city is revered. Where planting doesn’t occur through civic planning, it’s created and nurtured by residents, usually in pot plants.

A far cry from mowing the verge.

Pride and care of doorstep plantings - a far cry from ‘mowing the verge’.

And something nobody tells you about Tokyo, and no photographs can convey…

The calm. A truly human level of politeness and respect.

I now understand Paris syndrome but for me, Tokyo syndrome appears to offer the opposite symptoms – Expectations exceeded.

Whilst in town I presented at Tokyo UX Talk, building on one of my favourite topics… visualising UX research. Thanks to Tom and the crew there for hosting.

Humble pie, served on a bed of chaos.

The humbling chaos of the design research process

Being comfortable with chaos is a blessing in UX and design research.

This comfort can save you drowning in the depths of customer insights.

And if you’d rather drown in a pie, then make it a humble one, because if you like knowing the answer most of the time, open wide – you’ll need a big bite.

Not very appetising?

For days you’ll need to be content with NOT knowing answers, to the very questions you’ve been asked.

This was put beautifully into words in an interview with Ewan Clayton, a design professor, calligrapher, monk, and former researcher from Xerox Parc labs. (Those smarties who invented the PC, Graphical UI and the concept of ‘windows’)

xerox-parc-researchers-1970s

Researchers at Xerox in the ’70s unwittingly invented hipster style…

In the interview he talks about innovations in communication, from handwriting to Steve Jobs and the development of computer user interfaces.

Ewan Clayton. History of handwriting

Ewan in monk get-up, linking ancient glyphs and the Apple UI

My ears pricked up when he said:

“You have to learn to live with doubt, and strangely enough, that’s exactly what a research lab is like. You’re absolutely acutely aware of what you don’t know” 

…but it was what he had to say about his time as a researcher at Xerox as an ‘artist among scientists’ which really resonated with me:

“If you run, to try and find security, in “I know this”, or “I’ve established that” you actually don’t progress, and so my training as a monk was strangely appropriate for this new environment of the research lab, where I was able to sit in the dark, and have confidence that things would start making sense to me if I just allowed things to be, and watched and observed.”

Researchers at Xerox in the 80s. Beanbags, Check. Whiteboards, Check. Partings, Check.

Xerox in the 80s: Beanbags, Check. Whiteboards, Check. Partings, Check.

I’m no monk, or scientist so neither the chaos nor the pie came naturally to me, (switching from the classic ‘steak and cheese’ to ‘humble’ was quite a transition) but these built over time as I learned to trust my instincts as well as the process in research and design.

Here’s the podcast on Simon Morton’s ‘This Way Up’ show on Radio New Zealand. About 25 mins long.

…and if you’re the reading type, here’s an article on FT.com about Ewan’s journey from Calligraphy through Monkhood to Innovation Research at Xerox.

Context is everything, even in a motorcamp

Design research, especially ethnography, means being right there with your customer while they interact with your product.

In my current project this means collecting stories from tourists in their campervans around a few of the hotspots we are lucky to have ‘Down Under’.

I’m working with Ed Burak, who knows these ropes and the value they bring to designing a great product.

“Tough gig”, I hear you say…

…but we’re doing what the real anthropologists call ‘getting off the verandah’.

Design research on the road

We’re studying the customer journey of these rolling tourists via observation, and interviews at various stages of what is a highly-anticipated holiday experience. For some tourists it’s a ‘bucket list’ item – so under the surface of a relaxing holiday, the stakes can be high and the details matter.

design-research-map

The value of immersion

The tourist experience is in striking contrast to the patients I shadowed in hospital wards this time last year, where their situation was undesirable, unplanned …and the sooner it ended the better.

One aspect, though, is the same – the value of being immersed in their environment.

This value reveals itself immediately, demonstrating the closer you can get to experiencing your customers’ reality the better you’ll understand what matters to them.

Breaking the ice

Parking-up and staying in motor-camps moves us across an invisible, but tangible line. Somehow the ‘ice’ is broken for us when approaching our likely subjects, we’re seen less as nosey researchers – more as fellow travellers. This sense of ‘permission’ makes the vital first few minutes of an interview so much easier - rapport and empathy are built much quicker than I’m used to.

design-research-tags

Research in context

By walking (well, driving) in their shoes, we’re also relying on the same tools they use, like maps, guidebooks, facilities etc. We’ve also fallen into the rhythm of the campsites, observing and being part of activities happening at different times of day / evening. All this context provides a vital frame of reference for everything we’re observing, and helps us relate to experiences described to us.

Sure, it would be more convenient to snaffle these customers at the tail end of their trip, herding them into an office to collect holiday anecdotes but the opportunity cost of missing out on those rich insights is too great.

…and it’s much easier to focus when you’ve had your eyes opened that little bit further.

My sharpest user research analysis tool


I’ve found it’s easier to ‘see the wood for the trees’ if you’re chopping them with a sharp axe.

Yep, I just had my usual cord of firewood dumped by the shed and once again I’m finding it’s a useful medium when analysing data from a UX research study.

I’ve just had a week on the road interviewing people in their homes and am now faced with the mammoth task of reviewing all my footage / notes / photos and artefacts from the trip, then making sense of it.

A formally trained researcher might call this process extraction, collation, analysis and synthesis of data. For many like me who come into research ‘through the side door’ (like I did from the surf industrythere’s a certain mystery to the process, and it can take a few projects to get comfortable with it. What’s more, it can be straight out daunting…

…yes, a bit like a truckload of firewood needing to be cut, sorted and stacked into piles.

… Back to the pile of data though and most likely your first encounters will involve shuffling hundreds of sticky notes round the walls of a small room, bumping into furniture and getting high on solvent-based markers. There’s a lot of pattern spotting and theme building and as a rule it’s a hugely immersive process.

Time can equally stand still, or race by, and your brain aches under the weight of a thousand echos – things you saw, heard or felt during your interviews.

I’ve found it’s important to step away from the piles of sticky notes, into a new environment where your mind can wander. A monotonous task like chopping, sorting and stacking firewood is a perfect partner to working through all that data.

Running or the gym might be your thing, but for me, it’s chopping wood.

I escape the pastel patchwork walls and kill those echos in a single chop of the axe as I try to guess which way the log will split, or whether I’ll need the bigger axe for the knotty pieces?, which way the grain goes? and so on.

Time can play tricks on me in this mode too, but I surrender to it. As I’m splitting and stacking away I let my own thoughts come into play alongside the project objectives. This is where the strongest insights emerge for me, and they seem to come from instinct.

There’s something magic about walking back into the ‘war room’ with a few splinters and a fresh perspective, or even a challenge to the direction you’re on, and I’ve found it comes not from total immersion, but from giving yourself the space to let your own mind sort through the findings.

Dream design research projects from 2013, Part 2

The second half of the year was no less exciting with client work, but was boosted by the buzz of my own product hitting it’s stride in the market.

From July to December: Home brewing, TV, Mr. Tappy and Motorhomes.

Here goes…

5. Craft brewing insights

Location: Portland, Oregon. Micro brewery capital of the world.

Client: imake / (Part of the Better by Design programme).

Portland is the world’s capital of micro breweries and craft brewers. Visiting with imake’s team from NZ, Australia and USA, we stepped inside the garages, basements and minds of craft brewers, aiming to understand what makes them tick, and how they approach brewing.

My role as part of Better By Design is to help build design capacity within NZ export companies like imake. In many cases this starts with understanding customer needs, so getting out in the field like this was a perfect first step towards customer empathy.

In Oregon, I briefed the team on how to get the most from contextual interviews, supported them in the field, then coached them through collaborative analysis.

A deep dive into brewing culture, but my satisfaction came in that it was the client team who drew out the insights and identified opportunities for marketing and product development.

-

6. How do you view?

Client: SKY TV.

Location: Around NZ.

A classic contextual study in homes around NZ to understand how TV fits into people’s lives and how? / when? / where? / why? they get their fix.

Having run studies like this for BBC and SKY in the U.K. back in the late noughties it was super interesting to see shifts in consumer expectation and behaviour. Back then it was ‘time-shifting’, now it’s ‘omni-screening’. From devices to content sources, this felt like a ‘snapshot in time’ in the dynamic landscape of TV.

Insights from this project fed into new product development and an upcoming redesign of SKYTV.co.nz.

-

7. Tapping into the mobile market

Client: My alter ego – Mr. Tappy.

Location: My kitchen table, and 30 countries.

Yes, from kitchen table to global tech giants in 2 years and just 700 easy steps.

My side-project, Mr. Tappy, (a product I’ve developed to help film people interacting with mobile devices) continued to surprise me with sales to the point where I can nearly hear myself blush when I see my list of customers.

Taking this product to market has been a humbling learning curve for me. Even when working alone I find myself being design, marketing, sales, distribution, customer service, etc., discovering how easy it is to work in silos and lose customer focus - Something nobody can afford to do, especially when your customers are expert product evaluators.

Having ‘skin in the game’ has resulted in greater respect for my design research clients‘. Running day to day operations, and shipping product is challenge enough let alone keeping an eye on customers. This first hand experience helps me understand my role as a design researcher with each client.

The entire product is made right here in NZ (some in my home workshop) and the next iteration will ship with a purpose designed HD camera.

-

8. Living the dream, via your own motorhome

Client: Tourism Holdings.

Location: Australia and NZ.

We’ve all been stuck behind one on a hill on the way to the beach, but what’s it like to buy a home, and a vehicle at the same time? We set out to find out.

I worked alongside Ed Burak, THL’s lead experience designer to provide research muscle on a project around motorhome sales. Motorhome buyers are a fairly relaxed bunch, usually at retirement age and with some time on their hands, but buying one of these rolling holiday homes is not always a holiday.


From a few dozen interviews with owners, buyers, salespeople and experts, we poured our insights into a customer journey map highlighting parts of the buyers’ journey where the experience could be improved.

… and as you’ll see, some of my illustrations  for the journey map were verging on the autobiographical. Yes, the waves were always like that in my memories.

-

…What’s next?

All the talk of holidays and time away was perfect timing for the end of 2013 and inspired me to use the caravan (which was once my office) a few times over the Christmas period. Good timing.

If you missed my previous post, here are the first four dream design research briefs from last year.

Dream design research projects from 2013, Part 1.

Be careful what you wish for.

When I moved from design into design research, I dreamed of projects like these.  2013 was the year they arrived.

Contexts ranged from hospitals to homebrew, motorhomes to mobile devices, television to truck driving.

I was repeatedly humbled and surprised by the people I worked with, both research subjects and my client collaborators.

As much as I’d love to write a blog post from each, 2014 is in full swing, so…

Here are the first four of eight standout projects:

_

1. Hospital in-patient experience

Client: CDHB.

Location: Christchurch, NZ.

The most sensitive environment and subject matter I’ve worked with so far.
I worked with hospital staff on wards and at patients’ bedsides to capture in-patients’ emotional responses to the experience of their stay.

After discharge we visited patients and their families at home for a reflection on the experience. A clear picture emerged, of what matters to a patient, from environment, to information to service, and their associated feelings. Together, the team formed key design principles to meet the emotional needs of patients.

In some interviews I used live-sketching to capture notes, It was fun so I wrote a short article about my technique, with ‘top tips’.
_

1.5 Hospital ward prototyping

Later, in a GIANT warehouse, I helped lead a series of ward design / prototyping exercises with a super diverse set of stakeholders – from cleaners to clinicians, anaesthetists to architects.

I worked with a team of anthropologists and architects from Seattle-based design agency, NBBJ to facilitate full-size prototyping and simulation exercises, using  cardboard for walls, medical staff and actors to test various scenarios of use.

Those cardboard walls in the photos are a system called Mockwall designed specifically for spatial prototpying.

Since then the CDHB team have taken the prototypes through to a convincing level of detail where they can be validated through ‘almost real’ use. You can watch a short video showing where they’ve come to.

_

2. No Trucking Worries

Client: Blackbay.

Location: Virginia, USA.

I was dropped into Richmond, Virginia and the world of the long haul trucker. As I found out, Richmond is smack in the middle of the Interstate 95, the busiest highway on the east coast, connecting 15 States.

My role was to capture the voice of the driver, the way they communicated on the road and the information they handled along the way.

Big rigs, 53 foot trailers, truck stops and the dedicated ‘tribe’ whose mantras were either ‘live to drive’, or ‘drive to survive’. After a few days of interviews I was talking their language of lumpers, spots, hooks, dead-heads and bob-tails.

I worked in classic diners and freight depots, alongside product managers to inform the design of plan an app to let drivers spend more time eating up highway and less time worrying.

Yes, the app is called No Trucking Worries

_

3. Rock’n’roll radio

Client: Tait Radio.

Location:Christchurch, NZ.

To help Tait adopt a user centred approach to product development I planned and facilitated a rapid ‘learning by doing’ user centred design workshop focussing on installation of their in-vehicle radio systems.

This was a hands-on capability-building activity focussed on a specific project with the idea they could roll out the same approach on other projects.

I coached the team around research and analysis techniques, then took them through to prototyping and testing their concepts with their live customers.

I loved seeing engineers dig deep to define customer needs, then work together with plasticine and pipe-cleaners, receiving valuable feedback before moving designs forward.

_

4. Border Entry

Location: London, UK.

Client: UK Government.

“What is the purpose of your visit to the UK today sir?”, became what is the experience of travellers entering UK borders?.

This was a dream opportunity to work in airports, a context I’ve always been intrigued by.

Unfortunately, with my curiosity at it’s peak a week into this project, the project timeline shifted and I couldn’t eat into my next project in NZ, so frustratingly found myself experiencing the NZ border entry earlier than expected. …Maybe another time.

Dream projects 5-8 next week…

The rest of the year saw me into the world of craft brewing, TV, motorhomes and wrangling supply chain, sales and distribution with my own side project, Mr. Tappy.  I’ll save all these for Part 2.