Todd LevyIxD • Concepts • SEO • WP

20 years experience with iconic brands: McDonalds, Harley-Davidson, Purina and so on. Broad knowledge, a POV, and sense of humor. Interaction design, concept development, search engine optimization, Wordpress consulting, and more.

Recent Answers

Find one for a prominent site that has similar requirements / functionality and replace their name with yours. At least that's what everyone else does. YMMV.

Note: not a lawyer, not legal advice.

Sometimes the most well designed "deck" is actually not a deck at all -- especially if you want to turn the meeting from a presentation into a conversation. (You do, BTW.) We recently had multiple audience members from a pitch come up after to thank us for NOT have a deck.

Edward Tufte makes some salient points about this in his seminars, noting the authoritarian nature of PowerPoint and suggesting (perhaps counterintuitively) to let people see your materials in advance such that the actual meeting can be more of a dialog, more "interactive" in the traditional sense.

See also this essay, which is easily worth $7...

Disclaimer: sadly I do not receive kickback for misquoting Tufte or shilling his wares. If I did, I'd be rich (and earning money in a very unusual way).


P.S. $500 should get you at most 5 or 7 hours of time from a talented visual designer, which in most cases isn't enough to do great work. YMMV.

A few approaches I'm currently using:

1) StumbleUpon

Once you create an account, add in some interests. These can be general (e.g. "Technology") or more specific (e.g. "User Interface").

Then, at the top of the page is a big dropdown that by default says "All Interests." Pop that open then poke on the interest you're looking to get ideas for.

Start stumbling and see what comes up.

2) Facebook

Create a new Facebook page for yourself. It doesn't need to be public.

Then, when on that page, open the "Edit Page" menu at top and choose the last item, "Use Facebook as PAGENAME."

Then, use search or whatever means to find pages that post like-minded content to what you're looking for and "Like" these pages. {NOTE: Because you are "acting as" your page, YOU are NOT liking these pages, your page is liking them.}

Okay, so now you should have a page that you're acting as, and you've liked some other pages.

Now if you go to the FB homepage, you'll see a custom newsfeed of posts from JUST those pages that you liked (plus ads).

Over on the left (in today's interface at least) there's a little arrow next to Newsfeed. Click that and switch to most recent.

Voila, the freshests posts from the pages you like.

You can switch back to "Use Facebook as YOURNAME" using the arrow at the very top right of the desktop interface.


This is from the EdgeRank Checker people. Basically, you log in and create Pods (read: groups or lists) of FB pages.

Then, you can choose a pod, and a date range, and it'll show you the most "shareworthy" posts from those pages.

Hope this is helpful. Please feel free to reach out to me if you need any assistance implementing these ideas, or creating a custom blended RSS feed (which is still a fantastic way to achieve your goal).

I've been involved in everything from concept research (Harley-Davidson, Hallmark) to formal usability testing (United, NatGeo) to intercept surveys (Purina, SC Johnson) and so on.

The fact that you are interested in understanding your users' needs puts you ahead of the game already.

As usual, the way to best understand these needs depends heavily on your research objectives, budget, and time frame. There is no one right answer.

So, in the spirit of the Olympics, here are some bronze, silver and gold options.

Bronze #1: Add a button in the app that says "How are we doing?" or "Help us improve..." or similar and link to a simple email form. Language is everything here. If it just says "Contact Us" it will be ignored by everyone except those who have a beef.

Bronze #2: Send an email to your core user base -- the group within the group [1] if you will -- asking them to a couple of well-worded questions. Again, wording the questions is a critical art form that will ensure you're getting "real" answers that you can tie back to addressing your research objectives. Your questions must be clear, focused, and of the appropriate complexity.

Silver #1: Run an intercept survey on your website or if possible within your app. This will typically "cost" more as you'll likely want to spend time planning the survey questions, determining how you are going to screen prospective participants, and deciding how you'll report the findings and recommendations. Depending on the complexity of the survey and number of participants, you may find it worthwhile to engage a 3rd party, which range from simple self-service tools to full-blown research consultancies.

Silver #2: Perform a "guerrilla usability test" or "hallway test." Just Google it. Short version is it's a "discount" way to do a usability test, and often provides a much better value (cost-to-findings ratio) than a full-blown usability study.

Gold #1: Do some concept research. Essentially focus group where you're simultaneously trying to vet concepts before you invest too heavily in building them, and also to solicit ideas from participants. I've seen concept research done with everything from tissue sketches to fully developed products and everything in between (mood boards, functional prototypes, etc).

Gold #2: Perform a full-blown moderated usability study. As with intercept surveys, there are ways to do this for more or less time / money, but usually you'd want to work with a professional as findings from an improperly run usability study can do more harm than good. Unlike intercept surveys, usability studies are more qualitative so you get much richer texture from a much smaller group of people.

Those are really just the tip of the iceberg / knee-jerk examples. If you really wanted to go full-bore with the user-centered design approach you'll start getting into areas more similar to anthropology including ethnographic studies, contextual inquiry, and customer experience modeling and the like.

That said, hope these examples help you to get going in the right direction(s).


P.S. Feel free to reach out to me here if you'd like to talk in more detail about your particular research needs...


I have worked on large and small projects with both in-house and outsourced teams. Each time, a host of variables impacted the "correct" decision.

That said, I think it would be hard to answer this question without having a better understanding of what the app is, the delta between the MVP and the vision, your ability to document / communicate your goals (functional or otherwise) to an outsourced team, how you define "better," etc.

In short, it depends.


P.S. Love reviewing apps and would be happy to beta test / provide feedback if you're willing to share. (First time's free.)

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