Building for Real Behavior

The challenge with building products that people really love is identifying real behavior, not fictitious, manufactured, or fabricated behavior.

From another angle, it’s so easy to deceive ourselves into believing that what we are building really is the problem that most people are having when it’s actually not. I think many product builders and engineers are susceptible to these fallacies; I know that I am.

So I did a small yet simple experiment this morning: I captured my morning routine and made note of the sites and programs and applications that I engaged with naturally. The point of this exercise was to note real behavior and then think contextually about the product that I’ve been putting together over the last few months.

Even more context: My hope, like most products and businesses, is to become a system and tool that is used daily and one that is generally liked and one that creates a ton of value.

Over the last few months I’ve iterated on a number of different concepts and refining my approach to how I’m going about solving a problem that I believe exists is still very much a part of the process.

So, without further ado, here are some of my notes from the experiment as I was sharing them with some friends. Please note that these are off-the-cuff and pretty rough around the edges, but, I hope it gives you some insight into my daily morning routine and how I went about capturing my thoughts.

If anything, it could be an example for you and your teams to assess (re-assess) not just how you’re building but also what you’re building and whom you’re building it for.


Experiment: Capturing My Real Behaviors

I went to bed last night thinking about observing my morning routine and taking a few mental notes. Here are a few things that stood out:

When I woke up I immediately reviewed my inbox, read and deleted everything. This is probably a personal habit but it’s the motivation is very strong and I do this before I even head to the bathroom. There’s something important for me to know what’s going on and what’s being expected of me from others that i can begin thinking about as I go about my morning and get prepped for the day.

There are a few websites that I immediately log onto and check. I do this rather than read the RSS for posts. There’s something important about just visiting and seeing what others are posting and the comments on new posts / articles. Very much like Scott Belsky’s observation about sharing.

I also review posts that I’ve contributed to recently to see if there are any updates and any additional comments that have responded, even if I get notifications. This is a fascinating behavior that I never really thought about.

via Scott Belsky
via Scott Belsky

I then feel highly motivated to check-in on a few video games… There are 1 or 2 mobile games that have daily quests and daily challenges and even if I don’t participate I check the leaderboards and the placements. I check these “daily’s” multiple times a day; my guess is that I’ll do this 8-10 times a day.

I’m currently ranked #1 in the world in one of the smaller shooters globally. I don’t mind if I miss days, but, keeping that ranking high is strangely important. They have global rankings as well as smaller community rankings that I’ve opted-in for, selected people that I play with that we battle daily for local rankings.

I have never missed a community day and the days i’ve participated I’m always #1. I should probably find a different group of friends to play with…

Yes, I name my "toons" after my own kids.
Yes, I name my “toons” after my own kids.

Also, I log into to one standby video game (“World of Warcraft”) that I’ve been playing for 10+ years… and I’ve been playing the entire franchise since it started in November 23, 1994. I remember this because it was a few weeks after my birthday and i got an early release copy via my dad’s friend. I’ve been playing this franchise for 22+ years! There are also daily quests, leaderboards, and check-ins that I may or may not participate in but that require very little time commitment but have a pretty direct impact on my mood (if I’m to be honest). There is now a public calendar of events that can help people pre-plan engagement but i never look at that. A bit of a daily ritual that I really like.

I am the #1 player in my current guild (in terms of Achievement Points) that I’ve been part of for the last few years, by a long shot. The Roster, Perks, Rewards, and Guild News is how I check up on the days activities and there is no other way for me to get this information outside of the actual game itself. I might invest a few minutes a day and that’s all I need to get my fix, but it’s important for me.

Guild Ranking and Status - World of Warcraft
Guild Ranking and Status – World of Warcraft – “Most Valuable Players”

And that’s my morning. All-in-all, the commitment to check is very small, but I mentally assign time to the larger investments (if I want to) throughout the day. Again, the total time invested is very small (unless I commit to playing or ranking) since it’s so ingrained in my workflow I can do it while making coffee, feeding the kids, and doing my daily constitutional.

Why Does This Matter?

What I ultimately wanted to review from this early-morning exercise was to think about a way that Pinpoint could become part of my uncompromisable daily / morning routine.

What I think I’d be most interested in are more of the game-related mechanics of checking in on my community, seeing what they’ve been up to while I’m sleeping, encountering daily exercises (… “standups”…?) or challenges, and seeing who’s seen my work and responded to it or commented. Or, perhaps, just passively, seeing what the local and global ecosystem is “doing”, especially if I can’t directly and immediately participate.

My own personal engineering / product ecology would be cool. This is kind of like a social network of sorts.

I haven't started on my daily quest of domination... yet.
I haven’t started on my daily quest of domination… yet.

Interesting thing to note about this daily mobile game… I consistently battle a bunch of Chinese players for the #1 spot and I don’t have any way to chat with them and i bet they’d be open to just talking about strategy around the game and the general mechanics. That would make this game / engagement so much better, if I could lightly ping my fellow players / competitors and ask them stuff about how they play.

Finally a very interesting observation is that I theoretically believed that I checked a lot of engineering websites early in the morning and that those were very important to me as part of my daily morning exercise and routine but in reality I didn’t check really any of those engineering websites and if there was one or two community sites it was just notifications via my email.

I was thinking about this for engineering and how I’ve often wanted to lightly ping other developers / engineers within my sphere or social network and just strike up a conversation contextually related to a project or whatever allowing that social interface would be killer.

I also can’t communicate with my local team either and the only way we “communicate” is by beating each other in the daily rankings, which is lame. I login multiple times a day to quickly see if my morning score was beaten. If not, I log off… if I have been, which is rare in this community, I may invest some time to study their ship and weapon choice and then invest a few moments in beating my previous score.

I’ve never met these people and I probably never will, but we share a common challenge / initiative / project right now and just connecting with them would be so cool. This is very akin to open source projects as you go in and out of them in your participation levels, etc.

After giving this some thought I realize that my usage of those engineering and developers centric sites is because I had a particular need or issue that I was trying to resolve but not because I was intrinsically motivated to visit them.

The Net Result?

The net result of this introspection is that my motivation for entertainment and / or curiosity was more powerful of a motivator to visit then utility. Even thought the latter is arguably more important!

What I think occurs and I’ll check this throughout the day is that I engage with the developer sites as the business day progresses. But I periodically and consistently check the gaming portals and / or entertainment sites that have a strong social feature. The idea of “gamifying” engineering is something I want to chew on.

And the fact that I believed one thing to be true when it didn’t actually match my real behavior is a potent reminder of building acutely against real needs / behavior than anything else. If I’m to become a real “power” user of my own tool it would have to really connect with my fundamental motives, not theoretical or manufactured.


Also published on Medium.

2 Replies to “Building for Real Behavior”

  1. I don’t know you if you are aware of this, but you essentially conducted a diary study on yourself (a common UX tactic that is usually performed by UX researchers to evaluate how users use or potentially would use a product). I think it’s a really great that you essentially did your own diary study to help you evaluate your own product concepts. I would encourage you to ask at least one or two others do the same. Though this is not (strictly speaking) rigorous, I think this will help you validate your hypotheses further. For more formalized info on the approach, I encourage you to check this link out from Jakob Neilson (product research expert): https://www.nngroup.com/articles/diary-studies/

    1. Anthony,

      Thanks for this! I wasn’t taking any strict approach to capturing my thoughts – in fact, much of it was “off the cuff” but it was sufficient (for now) for my own use. Taking a look at your link, thanks for that!

      Anything that I can do for you?

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