Customer Development & Customer Interviews

Customer Development

Q:         How do we know a problem is worth solving?

A:         Through frequent interactions and iterations with users to build the best products.

Finding Customers

What types of people or groups do you want to target?

In what places or forums can you find these users?

Interview Tactics and Best Practices

Interview questions should be based on our assumptions.

Research Topic:             Music Streaming

Assumption:                 “Users would be more likely to stream music on a mobile device if they did not have to utilize their data.”

Hypothesis:                  “If users did not have to use their data to stream media from their mobile device, then they will be willing to pay a premium for that service.”

Questions should test your hypothesis.

Interviewing best practice

  • Ask open ended questions.
    • Closed Q – Are you a Risk Manager?
    • Open Q – What do you do for a living?
  • Avoid inserting biased in to Questions.
    • Positive Bias – Wouldn’t it be great if….?
    • Negative Bias – Are you frustrated when…?
    • Neutral Bias – How do you feel when…?
  • Explore and probe answers…
    • Tell me more about that….
    • Can you remember a time when that happened?
    • Why do you need that?
    • When do you need to do that?
    • How often does that happen?
  • Be an active listener.
  • Interview in-person
  • Ask permission to record the interview
  • Have questions prepared ahead of time.
  • Be respectful of time.


Persona Definition

A single representation of a cluster of target users who represent similar behaviors, goals, and motivations.

Why do we need Personas?

To create products that are useful, usable, and desirable for our customers, we have to understand who our users are and what they need.

If we don’t understand our users…

We make decisions for ourselves (self-referential design).

We make decisions based on assumptions, or what we “think” we know.

Creating a persona

Creating Enterprise Personas

  • Review the organization chart to identify the actor roles
  • Identify the hero’s of the story and the supporting actors
  • Collect data that defines the role:
    • Position profiles describe their jobs
    • Performance Management documents may define role objectives and drivers of behavior

Define your goal and what are your research questions?

Insight categories – starter list…

  • Needs and Priorities
  • Goals
  • Motivations for using your product Processes, Behaviors & Habits
  • Pain Points
  • Tools and Technology

How many users should be interviewed or observed?

  • Talk to 5-30 participants
  • Trends are often observable from just 5 people
  • Law of diminishing returns applies
  • More than 5 will deepen your understanding
  • Identify extreme users

Analysis and Segmentation

  • Talk to SMEs to identify attributes that are important within the scope of use
    • Tenure
    • Geography
    • Occupancy
    • Education / Background
    • Technology competency
    • Demographics
    • Context (environments, devices, psychology)
  • Understand similarities and differences among each attribute
    • g. Technology – Low, medium, high?
  • Break down the attributes to identify patterns
    • Make a grid with common attributes across the top & participants down the side
    • Describe how each participant scores against each attribute
    • Compare and contrast data and identify the similarities

Persona building blocks

Biographical information

  • What: Contextual background and personal detail about the persona. Can include defining characteristics about persona segment.
  • Why: Makes persona relatable and realistic. Promotes empathy.

Goals, priorities, needs, expectations

  • What: What is important to the user in this domain?
  • Why: Helps us derive and prioritize features, and make decisions about interaction

Behaviors & habits

  • What: Contextual details about how they use the product. When, where, how often, unique usage patterns, workarounds.
  • Why: Helps us understand how people currently use the product and situational considerations we can apply to the product.

Frustrations and pain points

  • What: Describe the issues they are dealing with on a daily basis.
  • Why: Understand and react to the user’s state of mind. Be empathetic to their situations and difficulties when making design decisions.


  • What: A real quote from qualitative research that embodies that persona’s segment. This should reflect their attitude and behavior.
  • Why: Bring the user’s voice into the persona. Make them sound like a real person.
  • How: Extract single quote or combine multiple user comments to create believable quote. Don’t get too wordy.

Persona image guidelines

  • Choose images that look like real people
  • Avoid selecting images that include distractions
  • Avoid posed, model-like or studio photography
  • Avoid images that include too much stereotype

Check out these sites for free images

Prioritize Features & Ideas

Use personas to score different feature ideas.

  • Helps identify which features will useful for who.
  • Features that benefit more personas can help prioritization (coupled with other measurements biz value, feasibility and frequency of use)

Measurement framework could be:

  • -1: Hurts persona
  • 0: Persona is neutral
  • +1: Helpful to persona
  • +2: Persona LOVES this feature! It’s a must-have!

Application in Agile Teams

Story Mapping            Include personas in brainstorming and prioritizing

Sprint Planning            Use backlog persona tags to help determine user stories to pull

Daily Standup              Inform the team of any additional research or findings that have influenced the personas

Design Review             Cognitive walkthrough with personas

Backlog Grooming      Analyze prioritization matrix, and any changes in personas

Retrospective              Think in terms of persona needs & goals

Personas applied to usability testing

Recruiting the right users

  • Consider the characteristics that really matter to your product
  • Create screening questions that will allow for parsing into persona categories

Putting together your tasks

  • Leverage scenarios to write tasks – context, problems, processes
  • Prioritize key tasks

Presenting test results to stakeholders

  • Did a particular persona have significant problems with a task?
  • “Julies” experienced difficulty with the initial pages of registration

Segment web analytics by persona

Segment your analytics by personas

  • Validate assumptions made
  • Refine personas if new information is uncovered

Build segment filters

  • Select characteristics that are representative of that group of users.