I recently completed my semester long pre-thesis project at college under the guidance of my project guide Riyaz Sheikh. It was quite a long and challenging journey with ample learnings at various stages. Apart from learnings about the domain there have been loads of learnings about the process and my practice as well.
Part 1 of this article describes my entire research phase including my reflection as a practitioner of design research.
Part 2 talks about the market research and ideation that was carried out based on the gaps identified in existing offerings. And also the process of validation and the various challenges on faces while validating with such a peculiar user set.
In this part I talk about how the incorporation of the feedback gained during validation and development of the final service model.
Final Concept – v0.0
Feedback from buyers and sellers was incorporated to form the first draft of the concept. It was decided that both the previous concepts should be merged to come up with a holistic service that caters to users at both end of the technology spectrum.
Below are the changes that were made :
- A service was created to assist local market network. The service serves both buyers and the sellers.
- For the buyers – in making informed and economically sound choices.
- For the sellers – in expanding their customer base and equipping them with digital marketing tools to bring them at par with e-commerce services and big retail chain stores.
- The market purchase life cycle was divided into various steps from product research, purchase, post-purchase issue redresaal and follow up from sellers.
- The system catered to users from both ends of the technology spectrum. It provided for an app for the technologically adept users and provides for other means to carry out the same set of tasks for the digitally illiterate.
Developing Appropriate Tools for Human Centered Service Design
Studying Existing Methods
‘Mapping Experiences : A Complete Guide to Creating Value through Journeys, Blueprints, and Diagrams’ by James Kabach was studied to understand existing popular techniques for mapping experiences, systems and services.
Below are the most prominent techiques as described in the book :
Developing a New Method
For the purpose of my project I decided to useone big system map to depict the entire service and individual customer journey maps for they best served to showcase the UX aspect of service design for each personas.
However in the case of system maps a slight variation was made on the existing method where the four user personas were located to four corners of the map and their individual journey were mapped and interconnections in their journeys with other stakeholders were shown. The service itself was placed as a horizontal bar in the middle to show where and how it intervened in the entire journey.
However this methodology had to be reworked on as the connections were getting too complicated and the map itself became illegible.
So instead of showing four journeys simultaneously I decided on configuring them as two journey (one for the buyers and one for the sellers) and describing each step both through a minimum tech and a medium tech route.
For the next level of service detailing, I started on making customer journeys.
I began by dividing my target user groups into four personas :
- Minimum Tech Buyer
- Medium Tech Buyer
- Minimum Tech Seller
- Medium Tech Buyer
Then I constructed scenarios respective to each persona, some of which were fictional and other were inspired from my primary data.
Next step was to describe the customer journeys in terms of aspirations, pain points, actions, touch-points and back-end processes. The standard procedures for customer journeys and service blueprints were merged. This technique seemed more relevant for my project.
Because I talk about physical markets and tying the social fabric over a mappable geographic region, I thought it’d be a good idea to also make spatial maps to visualize the movement of people and resources over physical space.
And finally some low fidelity artefacts were created as a manifestation to the service itself.
Final System Map
Minimum Tech Buyer
Medium Tech Buyer
Minimum Tech Seller
Medium Tech Seller
I had intended to do service validation before handing in the submission. But my prior experience with interviewing these people and conducting customer validation with them told me better than to use any existing techniques.
My maps could certainly not be used – they wouldn’t make any sense to them. I could’ve tried storyboard aligning to the customer journey, but they too failed the last time. So far it seems that engaging them with low-fidelity prototypes and getting them to role-play in the scenario might work, but the appropriate prototypes will have to be developed. Which is one of the key steps in the future work that needs to be done.
Domain expert validation needs to be done too. They might understand the language of maps, so the putting in place the protocol isn’t the issue but since I wasn’t connected to appropriate domain experts, I haven’t been able to do so.
Another issue with validation for services that I have overcame is that, unlike interactions, most services spread out far in terms of time and geographic space. So what is the proper method to measure the success of such a service, is something I haven’t been able to figure out.
As a human centered design student focusing primarily on interaction design, we know the parameters to validate interactions. But what are the appropriate parameters to test a service – is another subject of curiosity and future work.
It has been a very long semester. Barring a few weeks of relief of hands on craft/design, I can recall myself being in a constant state of wanting it to end. It’s a difficult process. Being the only person passionate towards a project can be disappointing and tiring. So a major part of the learning has been coping up with this. Finding motivation amidst all this.
Lesson #1 – Make sure you fulfill the necessities before you proceed ahead.
My first seminar for the project went horribly bad. The project was in a much different place than it finally came to be. And lack of work wasn’t the core issue. To begin with, I had failed to lay down and specify my bare minimums. Although they were somewhat clear to me in my head, I hadn’t penned them down and communicated it to my jury, it seemed like I hadn’t done it.
It was after my first jury that I re-focused my energy and penned down the essential mantra to success as I understood it, made a sticker out of it and pasted it on my laptop.
The simple success mantra- Discipline, Decision and Dedication
Lesson #2 – Put in equal efforts each day and be consistent at it.
Work with discipline – you’ll think you have the time, but you don’t. Everyday is important. Make a schedule for yourself for each day and work towards finishing it. Get an early start and only burn the midnight oil to fulfill the day’s tasks.
Lesson #3 – Decide quick. Make a mistake. Learn from it. Move on.
Decide, decide, decide – don’t confuse yourself with too many options. Everything is equally valuable to be done. Don’t indulge in over analyzation. A slightly hasty decision is better than an excruciatingly slow decision. Make a decision, even if it means making a mistake. Learn from the mistake. Move on and take the next step. Never ever waste your time trying to justify a mistake or waste time repairing it.
Lesson #4 – Believe passionately in your work. Let the passion drive your discipline.
And finally be dedicated and honest. This is something I had totally gave up on by the end of the project. All though I was putting in the hours that were required. Somewhere down the line I had started losing faith on the problem I was working on and any possible success of my intervention. there wasn’t anything I could do at the point I realized it. Over time, listening to a lot of critical feedback from faculty and experts I had lost belief in my intent. But the critical feedback, at times, might not be a direct result of the quality of your work and idea. Which brings me to my next learning…
Lesson #5 – Communication is the key. Simplify the complexity.
As you work for months on, the amount of content in your head boils over. You’re building the idea in your head but you’re not working towards seeing it essentially. So what happens is that the first time you talk to someone about it, you have no clue what to say and where to begin, and you vomit all the content. I wouldn’t blame them if they fail to see value in it or worse, dont get the idea at all. In my experience people form opinion about your work within the first 2-3 minutes of you talking about it. So make sure you can pack the essentials within the first few minutes. Here’s a suggestion I would follow – talk to more people and talk often. With each time you’ll learn to develop your narrative better – pick out the lines that work, remove the ones that aren’t.
Lesson #6 – Limit the scope of your project.
I think the one learning I’m assuredly taking forward for my next project would be to limit the scope of my project. Four months are not forever. When you’re actually into it, you’ll find that they slip away that quick. No one will praise your attempt for it’s courage. It’ll always be labeled a mistake. So do yourselves a favour, and pragmatically pitch your ambitions.
Lesson #7 – What’s not documented is lost.
Right from this reflection to this docbook, everything would have been so much more valuable had I put in the content when I came across it. So a practice I am assuredly taking forward would be to balance out my work with equal amount of documentation.
I failed amazingly in this project. But you see, trying, in my personal experience and in the words of Donald Norman, isn’t a very bad thing.
“Nothing is learnt if everything works perfectly. For learning to take place, failure must happen.” – and the more you’re trying, the more you’re failing and hence, the more you’re learning. 🙂