We were going to collect the responses on post-it notes, reward participants with candy, and tweet out answers to the world to get people thinking and talking about the subject.
The first usability issue we encountered: post-it notes fly away easily in the breeze! Nix the notes and pull out the markers. Next, people are afraid to talk to strangers with candy (my mother would say they were just raised right). Scrap the spiel and gently blurt out “what makes your life easier?” to passers-by.
This question made most people pause and think. Some were quick to identify a thing they used with frequency (a bike, a phone) or something that they wanted (sleep or food). More sentimental folk offered up relationships (friends, parents) and the lovely intangibles (attitude, love, being happy). Of course, we got the rare smart alec (oxygen, running water) and fewer still a depressing “not much these days” (we gave those people an extra piece of candy). And the more thoughtful answers seemed to come from respondents who showed genuine interest in what the heck we were doing out there (civility, accessibility, community).
In three hours, we got just over a 120 responses; here is a chart illustrating the different categories…
After crunching these numbers, I have to say I was pretty happy to discover that the relationship and intangible answers combined equaled the number of tech responses (40% each) and just 15% were material items. My colleague Manna wonders if those percentages would change if we conducted the experiment in a different neighbourhood. Sharing our building with the Centre for Social Innovation does make our local community a relatively thoughtful and socially conscious one. How many Bay Streeters are thankful for their doulas?
It was a fun day to get outside and get in people’s faces a little, sneak a little peak into their worlds and get them thinking about usability. And in the name of fun, here are a couple of word clouds of the various useful items….
…and the responses:
If you plan to gather similar research in your area, please keep us posted on your results (and don’t skimp on the gumballs)!