The importance of doing user research before building anything
Just another Sunday evening and I stepped out of the house to get some groceries. Bag, check. Wallet, check. Keys?
The door slammed shut and I was stuck without my cell phone outside my house. It took a couple of seconds for reality to dawn upon me and once it did……
I checked with the apartment security if they had any master key. Nope! Thanks to my cellphone, I have not memorized any phone number in the recent couple of years. The only numbers I knew by heart were mine and my family’s. Thankfully I had submitted the contact details of my house owner to the housing association. My owner had a spare key and was gracious enough to meet me halfway to hand over the keys on a Sunday night. Meanwhile I got some wonderful thought provoking questions from the concerned neighbors:
- Is there a window near your door? We can break it and open the door latch.
- Why did you get a grill installed in your balcony? We could have gotten inside the house easily.
And you wonder why I have trust issues?
I asked my apartment secretary to book a cab for me and waited for my owner. He arrived shortly and gave me key. And also booked a cab for me to get back home. Thank god at least I had my wallet with me. Phew! Crisis Averted.
Looking back on this incident, things could have gone wrong terribly. The owner could have been out of town. Or worse he is unable to locate the spare keys. I need a fail-safe in case this happens again. Spoilt by the on-demand economy, I thought why not a service for safe-keeping of keys. Pay a monthly subscription to keep your keys safe. And when locked out of the house or lost the keys, give them a call and have the key delivered to your doorstep. Presto!
Before sketching the screens or coming up with the pricing plan for the service, I decided to do some user research. I spoke with a couple of my friends and also sent out a Google Form asking people to describe their experience of being locked out of their house and how they managed the situation. The results were interesting.
- The most common hack employed is giving a spare key to a friend or a family member or a neighbour.
- Leave a spare key in the office.
- The other important thing is TRUST. People don’t just hand over the keys to anyone.
- When asked if they will be interested in a service for safe-keeping of keys, not many were receptive. Trust is the main concern. Also such incidents do not happen often. Getting a locksmith to break open the lock and getting a new one installed might work out cheaper.
As Sarah Doody often says, it is important to speak to your customers before building anything. From my experiment, I learnt that people wanted a solution and not a service. In this case, leaving the key in the custody of a trusted person matters more than the convenience of getting the key immediately.
By quickly validating our hypothesis, we can save a lot of time and effort.
Until I find a person who is ready to make an unbreakable vow to keep my keys safe, I will get my foot in the door — literally.