I finished "Inspired" by Marty Cagan over the long Labor Day weekend flights. I really enjoyed this book and recommend it for a "fast-read-sit-on-the-shelf for-future-reference" book. One thing that stuck out to me and where I decided to start my project is establishing a Customer Council. In his chapter titled "Charter User Programs," Cagan explains that this group of people will help you gain deep insight into target customers and be able to have great reference customers at launch.
Step 1, in the book (Designing for the Digital Age) I am also referencing throughout this process, is user research. For my mock project, I started to recruit a group of users all from my target group. These are also my friends, a loyal (and very biased) customer group that I can count on to willingly answer a survey, delve deep into my questions, and give me honest feedback on my eventual prototypes.
Design research is primarily qualitative through individual interviews and observations so I will eventually do conduct more qualitative research but for now, I am going to start with a survey to further help me diagnose the problem I am trying to solve and start the process of designing a more in-depth interview and direct observation.
So, I emailed said friends last night and gave them a slight idea of what I was hoping to use them for: 1) their participation in a user survey, 2) periodic feedback on one of my ideas. Cagan recommended a solid group of around 6. Thankfully, I received around 14 users opting into this crazy, not really defined at all, ride of mine.
Next up..developing a survey for this Customer Council.