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product development and finding the bathroom on an airplane
I was on a Boeing 757 coming back from the west coast last week and I noticed a sign that indicated when the toilet in the back of the plane was in use. It said “Aft Toilets” and “Occupied” would light up when all the bathroom doors back there were locked.Whoever put this sign in the plane was not seeing the world through the customer’s eyes.
I bet 90% of the people on that plane did not grow up on a boat and have no idea what “aft” means. This sign forces users to think about what is being communicated and decode the information through contextual clues. The sign is supposed to make the experience of using the facilities on the plane more efficient, but actually adds a cognitive load to the user and increases the friction in a key decision/use case. I see this type of disconnect sometimes when I talk to start-ups about product so I thought it was worth posting this example. People want to feel included and they want product that speaks to them. As a product person, you should be able to see the world through your customer’s eyes and in many ways become them. If you can you will flush the “aft bathroom” problem from your product.
At AND 1 and at my game company we were obsessive about our users. We wanted to know everything about them — what they read, what music they listened to, what they ate, what they bought, what movies they liked, did they get buttered popcorn and in what size…We studied our users’ lives to the point of understanding them deep enough to be them, to look at our product like them and to know what they would want a trash slogan to say or what type of pep talk they would want from a virtual trainer.
We worked hard to be schizophrenic and we were able to deliver on details in ways that consumers loved — little discovery items that just made sense to them and when we really got it right, made people smile. When you add all these features up, you get great product that makes sense to the user, is intuitive (to them) and easy (for them) to use…and you don’t leave anyone wondering where the bathroom is.