Creating a product that has the potential to change the status quo of an established industry is not an endeavour to be taken lightly. So many factors need to be considered, understood and catered for that it could seem an impossible task.

So where do you start? So many methodologies, all with merits, not all of them appropriate. How do you stack the odds in your favour and build a solid platform from which to move forward?

It starts with understanding…

…Understanding the landscape, understanding the people and most importantly understanding what needs to be achieved in order to create better outcomes for all parties involved.

Imagine you are out for the evening with friends to have a meal in a restaurant. You’ve decided upon a Michelin Star restaurant, somewhere with great reviews, amazing food and a chef of world renown. Sounds perfect, right?

Now imagine that a plate of food is put in front of you as soon as you sit down. No stopping to think about your day, what you’ve already had to eat? What you’ve been doing? Are you feeling ravenous? Are you looking for a taste experience?

Always talk to your customers

Although everything is perfect and an expert is preparing your food, without the understanding of you, and what you need, the likely outcome will not deliver the expectation.

Creating a successful product is no different. So how are we going about cooking up the right product for the Moonlight customer, and how can we be sure it will deliver on its promise.

Bring the team together with a shared goal

At Moonlight we understand that for the project to succeed we need our team to work as one unit with each member empathetic of our users’ needs and burdens, and to embrace a collaborative approach to problem solving.

Having researchers, designers, project managers and developers immerse themselves into behaviours and the causes of problems helps build a unified understanding from both an emotional and physical level. This will lead to huge efficiencies in the productivity of the team moving into the later stages of the project.

Collaboration is the key to successful projects

Understanding our users

The foundation of the project is an in-depth understanding of our user base.

Conducting research to understand who these people are and the environmental influences surrounding them is vital for creating a clear set of objectives to build on. In our project we outlined the types of users that would benefit from our solutions and conducted in-depth interviews both remotely and in context.

Snap shot of the research RealtimeBoard

The interviews created a wealth of insight into how these disparate groups currently perform the tasks to achieve their goals, the activities that made up the tasks and the problems that they faced.

Defining the problems to overcome

User interviews are just the beginning, once they have been conducted the outputs are then analysed. Organising the data is a team effort at Moonlight, we believe that all team members are crucial at every stage of the project to ensure efficiency and consistency.

Together we reviewed the findings, extracting key customer groups, defining emotional and physical aspects of their journey and recording the jobs they need to do.

We take the most appropriate aspects of a broad range of methodologies to understand the full picture. Here are a few of the core exercises we’ve been working through:

Personas for relatable focus

Personas are documents that represent key user groups in the system. They represent the environmental, emotional and physical influences that effect the group as well as documenting their behaviours, needs and frustrations.

Personas are a great way of focusing the team and creating a mental model to frame thought processes. Having a representation of a real person adds a touch of reality to the research, it allows you to visualise yourself in that person’s shoes with the burdens of their life; the motivations to achieve an end goal and what they need to achieve it. To create our personas we use collaborative workshops where pain points, tasks, goals and activities discovered in the user interviews are converted to post-it notes, added to a wall and then discussed, grouped and sorted by their similarities.

Experience maps

We can then break our research down further and explore the experience each persona has whilst achieving their tasks. Taking the post-it notes from the personas we sort the pain points, tasks, goals and activities and group them into tasks that the user completes to achieve each goal and sort chronologically. The result is whats known as an Experience map. These Experience maps allow us to map each step of their process and allows us to pinpoint the areas where pain points occur.

Job Stories for applying an actionable, contextual output

Job stories describe how a user changes, or wishes to change, their current situation for a better one through the actions they commit. They are used to combine our understandings from the personas and focus our attention on creating scenarios to represent the jobs, and the desired outcome of those jobs, that a customer will action on our system. People, in the case of our product, aren’t just looking for jobs; they’re looking to build a career, buy the house to support their family or even just feel good when talking to their peers about their work. This understanding is very powerful in creating products that truly deliver on their promise.

Service blueprints: The bigger picture of our customers’ interaction with our service.

If experience maps look at the customers’ experience across their journey then a Service Blueprint maps the service delivery process across touch points, including the back stage (systems and processes that the customer can’t see) and front stage (areas and touch points that the user directly interacts with) of the delivery. Good service design, as described, is the reason that you can have two coffee shops next to each other on a high street, selling the same coffee at the same price but more customers prefer one over the other. Having this understanding is crucial when you think of all the actors (people who are touched by the product) both front stage (Junior Developer) and back stage (Company Finance Officer) that will play a part in the service we offer.

Our partners, the customer

We bring our customers on the journey with us; from our initial research, interviews and workshops, through to collaborative design studios (the project team and customers designing together) and rigorous ongoing user testing. This involvement keeps us grounded, and ensures we stay on the right track, developing the right features, for the right people at the right time. Our core group of collaborators are made up of key user groups from all across the globe, each bringing their unique perspective of their markets and industries.