NUX4 kicked off with a story. Perched on a high backed stool, like a narrator in a theatre production, Tomer Sharon told the story of failed product Note.io.

Acted out with photos (with a few UX easter eggs for the eagle-eyed), the story had points familiar to any UX practitioner who’s worked with startups.

The idea scratching a personal itch.

The funding and hype that didn’t translate into actual engagement.

The UXer being brought in to some hostility.

The team realising how usability testing and user observation can help them create a product based on a real need.

The pivot.

Everybody lives!

Spoiler alert: there wasn’t an actual failed product. The story was a composite one.  The Note.io product and the founders never existed, but the entirely process was based on a series of interviews that Sharon had conducted for his upcoming book.

He ended the talk with some stats from the entrepreneurs who he spoke to. A disturbing number of them base their idea and decisions on personal preference.

However, most of them understand the importance of customer pick up, in the question “what questions do you ask yourself?” 97% answered “who are my customer?”, 95% “is there a need in the market for this”, in the 80s “is this product usable”, “is the product better than our competitors”, “is our design getting better”, and in the 70s “do people value the solution”.

He had a few takeaways from the story.

One was a mantra to the design problem (he’d also mentioned user or job stories as part of the, er, story) – fall in love with problems, then solutions.

He also noted the need to align, then refine –  find the right problem, do the right thing, then the thing right.

More than anything, Sharon suggested the old UX maxim to watch what people do rather than what they say – and in particular don’t ask what they want. (Elon Musk made this mistake on twitter with varying results).

As an experienced UXer, I’ll admit that there wasn’t anything here particularly ground-breaking for me, but for those getting their feet wet in terms of UX (who I call “UX-interested”) or who haven’t worked with startups, this could have been an illuminating talk.

As heard on twitter:

 

Vicky Teinaki is a user experience designer at Newcastle upon Tyne agency Orange Bus. She is also working on a PhD at Northumbria University about better ways of communicating design methods within the design industry.