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How to build lovable products 3 steps for having a big impact

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Building digital products in the current world is hard. The world is changing at a fast pace. In this world it’s no longer about if you can build it, but if you can adapt to change and make people care about your ideas.

At Fonk we are on a mission to build products that have a positive impact on the lives of people. To achieve this goal we are always improving ourselves: the way we work, our mindset, our culture and thus our company.

Over the years we have collected our failures. Based on all these experiences we put together three steps when building lovable products with impact.

1. Fall in love with the problem

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It is human to instantly start thinking of solutions when facing a problem. That’s what living in an uncertain world makes you do.

It is natural to crave certainty in the form of a solution. We all do it!

But we realised that by learning to prevent yourself from thinking of ‘final’ solutions from the start, you are able to learn much more about what your target group needs to overcome. This way the perfect solution will provide itself.

A lot of founders and clients we meet have the tendency to think of a complete solution upfront. While that’s not an issue, it is when they are in love with their solution and can’t think of anything else. When that solution does not work or turns out to be outdated there is nowhere to go from here.

That’s why it is of the utmost importance that you fall in love with the problem of the target group. By learning about what drives people on a deeper level, it makes you empathise with them more and thus understand them better. And if you build a solution that doesn’t work, you can learn from it and can go back to the problem and build a new solution.

2. Don’t build what people want

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If you ask people what they want, they want it all. There is a name for this phenomena. It’s called “Psychological distance”

Psychological distance: the more abstractly people need to think, the more they will focus on desirability.

A good example: if somebody asks me “do you want to speak at an event next year”, I think: Yes, that’s good for my network, I can write about it and use it for potential sales. But as the event comes closer, other factors come into play, like how I need to prepare the presentation, how tight my schedule is, and how difficult it is to get to the event space. My first response was focused around desire. By the time the event came close, it became clear to me how much time and energy I have to put into it. Eventually that (almost) didn’t weigh up against my desire.

We have found that when doing user research and interviewing people in an explicit manner, (asking them what features they want in a digital product) they request a lot more features than will truly be desirable when they have the product in their hand. Listen to this excellent podcast from Rebecca Hamilton for more on psychological distance and user experience.

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A good example of focussing on functions

The old school remote controls are a good example of building what people want. It’s jam-packed with functions and features to control your TV, but the amount of options just distract you from watching tv. A remote should be supporting your tv experience by giving you control over it, not by making you search the right option on the remote.

Build what people need !

At Fonk we work closely with the people for whom we are creating the product. We ask them about the problem and context, and try not to dive into a possible solution immediately. We are designers and when we learn about the problem we can build a really small and simple solution in the form of a prototype. This prototype can have any shape (think paper!). It’s the simplest step we can take to validate our ideas about the possible solution. Such a prototype serves one goal: get more insights into the problem.

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A remote hack

So after asking our target group about the problem and we hand them a (potential) solution in the form of a simple prototype. We then see if it works or fails. Either way, we learn more about the problem.

3. Make your users ‘badass’

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A big inspiration on the subject of ‘badass users’ is Kathy Sierra. She wrote the book ‘Badass: Making Users Awesome’. She focuses on three key areas — appreciating the context within which your product experience lives, focusing on reducing cognitive leaks and helping users find a state of flow when using your product in their context.

All together, it’s about focusing on making your users awesome, instead of your product.

So, as discussed previously when designing products to solve people’s problems, we tend to jump directly into awesome features. Those awesome features might solve their problem, but that’s not the core of what makes people love your solution. People will love your solution if you better their lives, make them more creative, more communicative or give them superpowers.

A way to design those superpowers is using the job-to-be-done framework. We frame every design challenge in a Job, focusing on the triggering event or situation, the motivation and goal, and the intended outcome.

When _____ , 
I want to _____ , 
so I can _____ .

Job Stories are great because it makes you think about motivation and context and de-emphasizes adding any particular implementation. Often people are so focused on the who and how, they totally miss the why. That’s a shame because the why (your way of improving the lives of your users) is directly tied to the empowerment of your user.

We extended the job stories with more insights so it helps us be better designers.

When I come home
+ at 8 PM after a long day of work and I’m sitting on the couch with my girlfriend

I want to be able to easily pick a simple funny tv show
+ without thinking how to achieve that with a difficult remote
 
so I can relax on the couch 
+ and give my overworked brains a bit of rest

So based on this job story you could think of multiple ways to achieve the outcome.

  • Like a smart couch that knows how you sit and understands your mood, based on that it pre-selects a few shows for you to pick from.
  • Or have your tv voice controlled so you can just say what you want to watch.

At Fonk we believe that when you methodically focus on empowering your users, you will create products that will have a lasting impact and make the world a better place.

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At Fonk studio we help start ups and companies with the development and realisation of their ideas. We like to build products that have a lasting impact on the world. Are you interested in working with us on your product or idea? Reach out to us!

The voice of young people is very important to Fonk, that’s why we have a team at Fonk called Familie van Fonk that focuses on the smallest people in the world. Do you need guidance in making products for children and families? Please have a look at the Familie van Fonk page or contact us at wijzijn@familievanfonk.nl.

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