Thinking like your users to decide what not to build

When it comes to software, it’s not always about what you should build… well, not at first, anyway. 

An important, often overlooked first step is to figure out what not to build. This early process of elimination can help to identify a solution that is worth testing and investing in that also resonates with your users. 

How do you start the process of elimination? There is one step we love to take during those initial brainstorming stages: Be the user. Be your user. Becoming your target audience will help you understand if your solution is usable or if it will cause so much friction that it’s time to move on to something else.

You may be wondering, how do you become your user? Well, I am glad you asked. 

The first step is to identify your audience. Are they office workers? College kids? Maybe a team of contractors on a construction site? Whomever it is, become them. Close your eyes and picture where they are. You are walking to class, you are on a busy construction site, or you are running late for your next meeting. 

Now imagine yourself using the solution you’ve dreamed up. Is it web? Is it mobile? Phone or desktop? If it’s mobile, grab your phone and pretend you’re running late to a meeting. Would you use it here? Is it easy to use on the run? If it is web and would be used on a desktop or laptop, is there a spot to sit down on the construction site to use it? If the answer is mobile web, what happens when the connection is bad? Now, this might not sound fair because we are picking specific challenging, possibly even edge case-y situations related to your audience, but it is important to think about the types of challenges your users may encounter. 

All too often we have ideas and we focus on the positive. Generally, we are told to do that, but that can also lead us to ignore the negatives. We gloss over the challenges of the solution and those challenges may be just enough to hinder adoption. So dust off your acting chops… imagine you are the user and give your solution a real shot. 

Once you have defined what not to build for your users, you will have a better idea of what to build.

If you’re trying to figure out where to start, check out this episode of Labs Live where we talk about how Design Sprints can help.