Chapter 7. Talking to Users (Or, “What’s a Poker Game?”)

Now imagine that you are at a very different poker game. You are working for an online gaming startup, and you’ve asked a group of poker players if you can sit in on their game to better understand their fundamental needs and behaviors around card games. After a round of introductions, your host asks, quite generously, “I’m not sure how familiar you are with poker. Do you want me to walk you through the rules?”

You might not realize it, but in this moment, you could be opening yourself up to a breakthrough insight about your users—or you could be completely shutting it out.

You pause for a second. You want these people to trust you, and if they think you’re a total rube, why will they volunteer anything particularly interesting or insightful? With an air of knowing confidence, you offer, “Oh yeah, I love to play poker! Are we doing Texas Hold ‘em or Omaha?” You get a cordial response of “Hold ‘em!” and the game begins. Whew. They bought it. That time you spent on Wikipedia last night really paid off. As the first hand begins, you get right down to business: “Thanks so much for inviting me to your game tonight. As you know, I’m here doing some research about online card games. What would y’all want from your ideal online poker app?”

The people around the table are slow to answer. Nobody seems all that excited about the question. After a bit of a lull, the person next to you chimes in with, “I installed a poker app once, ...

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