Can I ask you a question? // Wearable Tech Founder’s Series, Part Two

Can I ask you a question? // Wearable Tech Founder’s Series, Part Two

In this second installment of our series featuring a behind-the-scenes look at building a wearable tech brand, Karol Muñoz, lead designer and co-founder of wearable tech startup Luma Legacy talks about the vital importance of user testing for a startup.

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This weekend we met our mentor, Helen Shaughnessy, for coffee at Stanford Mall to talk about product market fit. As we were thinking about different people we had an epiphany! We thought teenage girls would be really into our product and were jamming out on all the exciting marketing possibilities. After finishing our coffee we approached teens to ask them questions about jewelry.

Conversation after conversation we learned that teens consider jewelry to be expensive at $50, and we are looking to retail at about five times that. While we hope everyone will want to wear Luma Legacy, as a company with a small budget we just can’t spend any time trying to reach a demographic who has to beg their parents for money. Talking to five teens early on, showed us a point of view different from ours. It would have been very expensive for us to have learned that down the road. We are a jewelry company, which means people need to want us, so we better be !@#$% sure we are building something that is desirable.

Unlike a software company who can push new builds of their product with the click of a button, it is a essential for us, as a hardware company, to understand who our first customer really is—lest we make tens of thousands of something that no one actually wants.

The relationship between design and research is one of the most misunderstood parts of creating a product. Perhaps your designer is hard-headed and has a Steve Jobs complex believing that people don’t know what they want until they see it (like I was.)  Maybe you are a group of five people from similar walks of life believing your enthusiasm is a sign of success. Maybe you think it will slow you down because it is complex or expensive. The worst excuse is that you believe research will contaminate your design thinking—it actually does quite the opposite.

Research is a tool to learn about people’s behaviors in different environments. All it requires is talking to people and finding patterns in their pain-points.

It is deeply inspiring speaking to new people and learning what makes them tick. It is true that people won’t tell you that they want your product until they see it executed well but you need to find ways to find your answers without showing them answers.

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So, how can we create products people will love?

First, be humble, assume you are building the wrong product, then develop multiple scrappy ways to learn about different aspects of your product. You need to always know what you are testing. Make a hypothesis and test it. Here are some tips:

Talk to random people. It’s fast and free; do it always.

We’re making a consumer product and consumers are at the mall. We walked up to women wearing jewelry and said something along the lines of “Hi! We’re design students doing research on jewelry, could we ask you five quick questions about your bracelet?” By saying “your bracelet,” people are intrigued and willing to tell their story. We made sure not to mention how long our questions would take. When we said five minutes, people said they didn’t have time (especially in New York!)

Get deeper with the right people, which is best in conceptual stages.

To get quality information, we are spending 60-90 minutes talking to specific people in their homes. To do this, put together a recruiting guide and make it detailed. Include extreme cases, people who would hate your product and some that would absolutely love it. Be diverse in aspects that matter to your product, it can be gender, age, career or level of interest in badminton. Once you know who you want to talk to, think about what you want to discuss. Create an outline with themes you want to hit and open-ended questions. Instead of asking “What sentimental value do you hold to jewelry?” ask “What is your favorite piece of jewelry?” Let them tell you and then ask “Can you tell me why this piece is special to you?”  Your outline will give you structure but remember it is OK to let the conversation flow and get off track sometimes. Try to hold these interviews in their environment, a place where they are comfortable and likely to use your product.

Send a survey to get numbers & optimize.

Surveys are great to get opinions on a specific thoughts from many people. They won’t go off topic like with at home tests; instead you will be able to get a percentage of people who prefer A to B. With this type of quantified information you can prove your point to people who want numbers.

Talk to people. We are narrowing down to a specific first customer and thinking of them in every step. If we do this well, the customer will be delighted and market our product for us. I am not someone who easily talks to strangers, it’s extremely uncomfortable to me. Find a way to get over it because the information that comes from conversations are so deeply insightful. Each conversation will shift your thinking and improve your testing.

In Karol’s next part of the series, she’ll dive into prototyping—why it’s important and types and ways to do it.

Third Wave Fashion has been your fashion tech think tank since 2011. We publish the first ever printed fashion tech magazine, Third Wave.  Follow us on Twitter or subscribe to our newsletter to stay on top of the latest in fashion tech + wearables.

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