Design & Prototyping

with Devika Patel and Natalie Griffen

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Customer Discovery

Understanding your customers will drive your success.

Devika Patel

Co-founder of Orenda, Stanford Student, Product Designer

Natalie Griffen

Designer, Incessant Doodler, Coffee Lover

Lessons Learned

Be sensitive to customers and their needs; put the people first.

Consult with people that you trust

Word usage and connotation are incredibly important

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Lesson: Design & Prototyping with Devika Patel & Natalie Griffen

Step #2 Customer Discovery: Understanding your customers will drive your success

Common questions to be asking when designing a product include asking what they think the need is in their community, definitely asking them what about products that they have seen in the community, and why they think they have or haven’t worked, and this is useful if you have a specific product you want to talk about that is popular enough that they probably would know about it, and being able to ask specific questions about why they think this product would work or not.

One question that I always ask is, “What do you want?” If you were an engineer, or if you had all the money in the world, what would you want to do for your community? And that’s when parents, researchers, anyone you're talking to really gets down to what they really want to see and they have the idealistic views that we can use then hone in on tangible products. I think it is very important before you start talking to your users to learn about not only the overview of what you’re trying to learn about, but also sensitivities in wording.

For example in the autism community we tend to not refer to individuals as autistic but we put the person first, so parents really appreciate it when you say children with autism rather than autistic children. It’s a really important distinction to them because they want their child to be recognized as a person first and then attach the autism with it rather than attaching autism to the front of it. The connotations of words are really, really important.

Another really big thing in the autism community that we had to be very cognizant of is the use of the word “normal” and this is a really sensitive topic in autism because what really is normal. What we use is for children or individuals who do not have autism, we refer to them as neurotypical. By picking up on these sensitivities in language and also in just being respectful to your audience, you should just be aware to pick up on this.

So when we were trying to figure out how we’d go about talking to this community, we talked to one of our trusted advisors who is a psychiatrist here at Stanford and she pointed out to us that these word sensitivities are really important to look at. By being able to pick up on that beforehand and when we went into our first interview and were able to use the word “neurotypical,” parents really felt like this was a really safe space for them.

We also needed to keep in mind the culture of our users and make sure that we took that into account when we designed our product, making sure that we designed products that could fit for a wide array of users, and understand that some cultures might not be as willing to give out personal information. That's one big thing that we saw is that some parents are willing to tell us everything about their child while other parents tend to sugarcoat it or tend to not want to say as much, so finding a balance especially since our product relies on this type of information was important in our design process.

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