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Salesforce Product Research: The Tools

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20130924-everythingRed Argyle has not only been getting involved with Salesforce implementations and custom development, we’ve recently been working with organizations to identify, research and validate product concepts. There are numerous techniques and best practices associated with product research, but for the purposes of this post, we’ll focus on the low-fidelity tools we use during the early stages of product research, particularly when brainstorming with clients and end users.

Something to Write With

20130924-sharpiesWhen you get a lot of people together to write down a bunch of ideas, brevity is your best friend. If you give people a superfine-tipped pen, they will write notes in intricate details because, well, they can. Ironically, you don’t necessarily want that level of detail in the early stages of product research. Enter the Sharpie as a forcing function for brevity and clarity. The fatter tip and slight bleeding nature of a Sharpie makes it hard for anyone to write too much or too small.

Something to Write On

20130924-post-itIf a big, clunky, Sharpie is the “Yin” in our quest for brevity in written notes, the post-it note is our “Yang”. Lined or unlined, post-its are the vehicle upon which thoughts are conveyed and stored. I favor the 4×4 inch size because it fits in peoples’ hands very well (smaller sizes combined with a Sharpie starts to feel awkward to work with). Whatever size and style you choose, make sure it has some stick on the back, as this will be crucial down the road.

Notes for your Notes (aka Index Cards)

20130924-indexcardI know what you’re thinking: “you just told me to get a bunch of post-it notes, what the heck do I need index cards for”? Index cards (again, lined or unlined, your choice) serve two great purposes. First, they are an excellent place for “moderator notes” for observations you make during your brainstorming and research sessions but are not directly relevant to the activity at hand. Second, they serve as a non-sticky counterpart to your sticky notes, which is useful when categorizing notes or capturing “notes about notes” (meta-notes, anyone?).

Attack of the Giant Post-It Note

20130924-bigpost-itSuper-size post-it notes are like portable whiteboards: armed with these oversized sticky sheets, you can turn any room into a hive of brainstorming productivity without forcing everyone to huddle around a single whiteboard. When you’re done, it’s a lot easier to peel off the sheets than taking the walls with you. These canvases often also serve as top-level “buckets” for categorization for their more dimunitive sticky counterparts.

Ooh, Stickers!

20130924-stickersUltimately, every brainstorming activity results in a corresponding categorization activity. If colored stickies and well-labelled uber-post-it notes aren’t enough, colored stickers of varying sizes give you more options to sub-categorize your data.

Hello, my name is…

20130924-nametagNot only do name tags solve the obvious “what’s your name?” problem in group activities, they also double as yet another categorization tool. For example, if you’re doing three different activities with a group of 15 people, you can put three different colored stickers (see above) on each name tag so people know what groups they are working on when, which will keep your brainstorming sessions organized and efficient.

Batten Down the Brainstorms

20130924-tapeJust when you though things couldn’t get any stickier… Scotch Tape is like a portable laminator for all the material you’ve collected. We use at the end of every activities to “ratchet down” all the small sticky notes and index cards on the oversized sheets mentioned above. Despite their solid grip indoors, post-it notes are nearly defenseless against heat, cold, wind, water, drops, falls, slides and any other movement or environmental factor imaginable. Nothing is more cold-sweat-inducing than watching a set of well-placed post-its fall off a sheet of poster board after a hard day’s brainstorming. Tape everything down. Everything.

Ready to start some Salesforce product design of your own? Head down to the local office supply store and stock up, and keep an eye out for future posts where we put these tools to use and walk through the techniques, activities, and strategies of product research.

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