Use Caution When Asking People What They Want

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by: David Armano on Design Research Conference Day 2

It's day 2 at the deign research conference in Chicago.  Steven Herbst of Motorola drove in interesting point home with a video from a focus group.  You have to be careful when putting folks in a "lab environment"—essentially asking them for their opinions.  Watch the video and make your own conclusions.

Here's what I did before putting this video up.  I turned off the sound and watched the video a couple of times.  This is just my own personal opinion as I am no body language expert—but the people didn't seem to move naturally.  It's as if they were searching for right answers.  The one guy who kept hunching over the table reminded me of an inspector—looking for flaws in something.

Many of us who are in search of innovation like to use the phrase "unarticulated or unmet needs"—meaning that a user may not always be able to tell us what they really need, and we have to read between the lines.  So I'm liking Steven's position here that it's best to be "cautious" in this context.  I intepret this to mean that we don't throw the lab environment out with the bathwater—but using caution is a good thing.  By the way—whenever I would observe user testing behind a 2 way mirror—I often times would plug my ears and watch people's body language.  Sometimes what people don't tell us in a test setting speaks volumes. 

What do you do?

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