Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Fake-Up: Customers Innovate Even When You Don’t

I read this Paris-Hilton-in-prison inspired article about how women in jail are not allowed to have or wear make-up. Under these restrictions, the women behind bars have adapted and have come up with workarounds. They use Skittles, Coffee, Crystal Light, hair grease and ink pens to improvise make-up they call, "Fake-Up". Even in jail the inmates want to look pretty, so they find a way to do it. Must be sticky, but from the article it seems as if you can't even tell they are wearing coffee and skittles. Mission accomplished.

Users do this all the time. I've seen many products that don't provide what customers want, so they end up doing the same exact thing. I've seen books wedged under keyboards to change the angle and doubling of hardware to divide workflow scenarios. Often, they will use existing components in ways that were not intended. We all do it. I use Word to create these blog entries because Blogger sometimes screws up my entry when I post and I don't want to lose anything.

When performing field studies where customers use your products, keep an eye out for identifying these gems. This is low-hanging-fruit for you to add something to your product that has already been proven useful by your customers. More often than not, you can make their workarounds even easier for them to use.

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