• Sridhar Rajendran

What do users really want — solution or service?

Updated: Aug 23, 2018

The importance of doing user research before building anything

Just another Sunday evening and I stepped out of the house to get some groceries. Bag, check. Wallet, check. Keys? BANG!

The door slammed shut and I was stuck without my cell phone outside my house. It took a couple of seconds for reality to dawn upon me and once it did……

Image credit: GIPHY

I checked with the apartment security if they had any master key. Nope! Thanks to my cellphone, I have not memorized any phone number in the recent couple of years. The only numbers I knew by heart were mine and my family’s. Thankfully I had submitted the contact details of my house owner to the housing association. My owner had a spare key and was gracious enough to meet me halfway to hand over the keys on a Sunday night. Meanwhile I got some wonderful thought provoking questions from the concerned neighbors:

  • Is there a window near your door? We can break it and open the door latch.

  • Why did you get a grill installed in your balcony? We could have gotten inside the house easily.

Image credit: GIPHY
And you wonder why I have trust issues?

I asked my apartment secretary to book a cab for me and waited for my owner. He arrived shortly and gave me key. And also booked a cab for me to get back home. Thank god at least I had my wallet with me. Phew! Crisis Averted.

Image credit: GIPHY

Looking back on this incident, things could have gone wrong terribly. The owner could have been out of town. Or worse he is unable to locate the spare keys. I need a fail-safe in case this happens again. Spoilt by the on-demand economy, I thought why not a service for safe-keeping of keys. Pay a monthly subscription to keep your keys safe. And when locked out of the house or lost the keys, give them a call and have the key delivered to your doorstep. Presto!

My impressive drawing skills

Before sketching the screens or coming up with the pricing plan for the service, I decided to do some user research. I spoke with a couple of my friends and also sent out a Google Form asking people to describe their experience of being locked out of their house and how they managed the situation. The results were interesting.

  • The most common hack employed is giving a spare key to a friend or a family member or a neighbour.

  • Leave a spare key in the office.

  • The other important thing is TRUST. People don’t just hand over the keys to anyone.

  • When asked if they will be interested in a service for safe-keeping of keys, not many were receptive. Trust is the main concern. Also such incidents do not happen often. Getting a locksmith to break open the lock and getting a new one installed might work out cheaper.

As Sarah Doody often says, it is important to speak to your customers before building anything. From my experiment, I learnt that people wanted asolution and not a service. In this case, leaving the key in the custody of a trusted person matters more than the convenience of getting the key immediately.

By quickly validating our hypothesis, we can save a lot of time and effort.

Until I find a person who is ready to make an unbreakable vow to keep my keys safe, I will get my foot in the door — literally.