Designing journeys from the hamster’s point of view
On Saturday mornings, we occasionally build mazes for the kids’ pet hamsters out of Duplo. This is fun for everyone, including the hamsters who get a chance to come out of their cages and stretch their little legs.
As the architects of the mazes, we come up with various features that make the mazes more interesting to us. Rooms full of tasty treats at the end of long and complicated tunnels. We even did an elevator once. Here’s a typical maze…
As you can see, it’s pretty hard to tell where the rewards will lie. To the left? Or the right? That’s all the hamster can see. Very often, the hamsters choose to escape from the experience altogether. (It’s amazing how tall you need to build the walls to stop this. That’s a lesson in itself.)
To make a successful maze that the hamster will run around in, we have to appreciate that the hamster can’t see the whole maze at once. They can only live through the experience of it step by step. And if a given step isn’t easy and clearly rewarding, then they won’t take it – even if there’s a mountain of popcorn waiting for them just a little further on.
As Flow has worked with various corporations in South Africa, it always seems to come down to the same key activity: Helping teams think through “what would our customer want to do next”.
The simple act of viewing an experience step by step, as a customer would, solves squabbles, uncovers points of pain, and drives out simple new ideas that make things work better for everyone. Without doing this, business units and dev teams tend just to think about the component parts and how to click them together. And customers are faced with fragmented experiences that range from irrelevant to downright bizarre.
The tools I’m talking about are just personas, scenarios, and journey maps here – techniques that are as old as the hills. But they’re still fundamental, and if you do them earnestly and intelligently they make all the difference.