A common assumption among startup entrepreneurs is that listening to potential customers is the best way to find out whether your product or idea will succeed in the market. Honestly - don't bother. In our ten years of user experience research for startups and big companies alike, one thing we've seen time and again is that it's behavior, not opinions, that tells you whether people want to use your product.
The main problem with opinions is self-reporting bias: Opinions are often inconsistent with behaviors or other attitudes, especially when discussing hypotheticals. Remember Clippy, the little character that appeared in Microsoft Word years ago? That little bastard arose, in part, from Microsoft asking users if they wanted help working on their documents - everyone said, "Sure, sounds great." But once people started actually using it in the real world, they hated it - it might be one of the most hated features in the history of computing. But Microsoft employs hundreds of researchers. So where did they go wrong, and how can you avoid making the same mistake?
It's simple. Never ask people what they think of your product or idea. Instead, I'll walk you through the world of researching people, including what you need to ignore customers effectively, just like Apple and 37 Signals. I'll go over examples from our research with Volkswagen, Electronic Arts, and Wikipedia, and show how to use remote research to construct behavioral scenarios and eliminate poor research.
11th–15th March 2011