Understanding your audience

The murky water is beginning to settle. The silt is falling to the bottom and as the ripples begin to dissipate, a shape is forming. Week 3. Time for a mental shift in the story of a startup.

Conversations with friends and family opened up interesting observations this week, helping me to move out of what had felt like a holding pattern with regards to We Are AFK. The first trigger was catching up with some of the lecturers are Ravensbourne College, about helping for a few days in March on a year one module and then another conversation came up about running evening classes in April and May. I had a catchup with one of two people I’m mentoring at the moment which was also an update filled with excitement and possibility as he told me all about a great opportunity he has been given at his company which I hope was helped along by the advice and guidance I’ve given him over the last few months.

My mind was finally back in the place I needed it to be – that of finding purpose. The cogs started spinning again and I began to realise what I have been trying to avoid looking at, despite it being what I’ve spent the last 9 months researching is of course exactly what I want to be doing – teaching others what I know, and helping them make changes to the environments they are in, just as I had shared shared last week after trying out the Imperative purpose questionnaire.

Some feverish scribbling on yellow squares resulted in this, which I now want to explore further over the next week and try to tighten up.

Post-it note points on things We Are AFK could provide
Post-it note points on things We Are AFK could provide

Things are narrowing down. When I created the holding page at the start of January, I lead with a very broad, suggestive, possibility of what We Are AFK did.

We Are AFK is a new creative agency & Startup Studio in Brighton. We support Startups and organisations when additional resources, skills and guidance is needed – helping to make what you do every day meaningful.

Now, I’m able to begin refining that statement to address the specific individuals that I would like to work with in order to make their day meaningful – and mine.

Working with personas

My focus is a little clearer. I want to teach people to fish, rather than feed them for a day. This week at Happy Startup School, there was an exercise on personas, something I’ve got a lot of personal opinions on (I’m currently writing a workshop on the history, purpose and activities – ask me for more details.), but I already have some very detailed, well thought out personas for some of the possible audience for the business. Right now, I’m not ready to share them, they need adapting and revising to match the people I want to help. it shouldn’t take me long to flesh these out because I’ve worked with them for over 10 years.

Let’s take a step backward to last week. I want to share with you how I unexpectedly created my own setbacks and made mistakes by defining the purpose of the business based on what I’m comfortable doing, instead of what I want to be doing.

An earlier exercise had us asking the following questions.

  1. Problem: Where is the pain?
  2. Solution: How are they solving it now?
  3. People: Who is it for?

At the start of the week I had been thinking about the answers from a delivery mindset i.e. posing these questions in the the context of having a need for a thing and that We Are AFK would be helping to define that thing and then design it and delivery it. This is because my initial pitch statement was that this was a creative studio, the reason for making this statement is to highlight that I am not alone, that I want to work with other people on this venture. But it ended up creating barriers that I had not considered straight away.

If I was to imagine a startup studio it would be web designers and developers and that wasn’t my original intention; something that was queried by one of my fellow Tribe and gave me something to seriously think about.

Here are my answers to these questions based on my original bias.

Problem: Where is the pain?

  • Have a great idea for something, but don’t know how to make it happen.
  • Have approached well known agencies in the past and told they don’t have enough money – they’re too good for them.
  • Don’t have the time to make it happen because I have so much other business needs to focus on every day.

Solution: How are they solving this now?

  • They’re getting something made on the cheap, in a rush and not built to last, often lacking the question – should it be made at all?
  • They’re teaching themselves how to make it. This takes much longer to achieve, and so costs a lot more than intended. There’s a risk that interest will wane.
  • Give up. Never do it, just another pipe dream.
  • Spend too long in stealth mode, and find that when it is ready it’s not what they originally thought and isn’t sellable.

People: Who is this service for?

  • Small businesses who need to get things going, or to make the next move forward.
  • Those who want to learn more ways to solve problems and think of the ways to tackle a challenge.
  • Those that don’t have time to make a thing because of businesses commitments and or lack of skill set.

From this jumble, you can see that somewhere, my mind was already starting to pivot around the point of what I want to be doing not just what I can and I was trying to meet both needs. It’s clearly moving away from being about designing/building products for companies to giving them the ability to think about what it is they want by giving them the skills to think differently.

In fact, based on the photo at the start of this post it is very much a training service, teaching people design thinking and practical skills to change the way they think about work, hopefully, that will result in more meaningful work for everyone. And yes, quite possibly we may offer to deliver the end result, but if we do, it could well be with partnerships so we can keep our own focus.

Now I have to review this exercise again and start to think more about these core areas with the focus on the following questions in addition to the ones from the core exercise:

  • Why are businesses still hiring individuals to be responsible for User Experience Design?
  • Why should you all be responsible for User Experience Design and how?
  • Who should be learning these skills and why?

This is a pretty good place to be with a month left to go as part of the Happy Startup School home school Tribe 7, and I am already certain I have the answers to the above questions, the challenge from here is how do I write them into simple sentences that will lead me closer to producing the value proposition I am desperately trying to get to?


Also published on Medium.

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Andy Parker

User Experience Designer, headbanger, biker, skater, gamer from Brighton UK.