Design Sprint productivity user research

Fighting the sticky chair syndrome: three simple ways to get user insights

Some tricks to improve your product by doing user research more often.

I worked for large companies. I worked in very comfortable offices with very comfortable chairs. Even lounge corners, playrooms, you name it. Of course, we had meetings. And in quite a few of those we discussed our users. What they wanted, what they needed, how they needed it.

This is not a rant on sitting down at meetings. -Although I do believe in standing up. I want to share some tricks to improve your product. By fighting the sticky chair syndrome.

Many people work on products and make decisions that impact their users. In Scrum, the Product Owner is responsible for this. In other setups it can be brand managers or product managers. It doesn’t matter. When it comes to the voice of the user, everybody tends to stick to their chair. Because nobody really knows what to do, some quote a user research report from 3 years ago, while others start a discussion. It’s endless. Because no facts are on the table this can take a while and is usually off.

Next time you find yourself in such a discussion, try one of these methods to introduce facts instead.

1. Go out of the building

Sit down with your team for 5 minutes and think of 3 things:

  1. The hypothesis you want to test. You probably already know this. But writing it down makes it even more explicit and helps the interviews.
  2. How you approach people. “We’re a startup developing a new soda drink. Can you help us out?”. It seems silly to think about an opening line. But the first thing you say makes or breaks the opportunity to talk to a stranger.
  3. The user group you want. This can be fairly broad. If you test something on a travelling app and you want people that travel frequently, this should be your first question. Don’t be afraid to politely walk away if the user can’t help you. It will only waste everybody’s time.

Prep yourself to be surprised. Recall what confirmation bias is, and try to avoid it. Then go out in pairs. Ask people in the street, come back with results. It works best if 1 person asks questions and the other captures. In 1 hour you should be done. You’ll probably get back with a lot of information. I think it works best to regroup the information with the team.

2. Call for help

A variant of the previous method: you don’t go out of the building but call people instead. This works well if you are approaching other companies. I never just call people as its pretty invasive.

Think about a call script. And consider doing cheeky stuff like pretending you are a potential customer in order to get information you want. 🙊

3. Digital Marketing

If you’re unsure about interest in your product or the most what’s the compelling message to the user, you can use online ads to quickly gain insights.

You can test about everything. But for quick, overnight tests a rumble style A/B test works best. Quickly put together 2 ads that are mostly similar, except for the difference you want to test. Say you want to test the best message of a food product. You are doubting between “low fat” or “very healthy”. Craft two ads. Keep the image and text similar. But change the headline to highlight the difference. Don’t worry about the perfect image, for this purpose I found that even stock photos work well. Usually an overnight run generates enough clicks to compare the two versions.

What about Design Sprints?

Design Sprints take longer than the other methods: 4 days. But they do work perfectly to get proper user insights. That’s because you also spent time on refining the challenge and crafting the best solution into a prototype. And then you really sit down for an hour long in-depth interview with 5 users.

Simple == good

These tips are so simple you just might not think of it. -At least that happend to me.

Like everything else, it’s all a matter of attitude. All these methods can be taken up as specialist work that takes weeks to complete and a lot of cash. They can also be game changers for you with your current team and budget. With the right mindset, you can get really valuable information in just one hour by nothing else then wanting to move forward. Out of your sticky chair!

Cheers! Let me know how it worked for you.


1SPRINT is a workshop agency for the impatient innovator. When you’re innovating you can take 2 stances: either you wait for a spark of creativity or you impatiently get stuff moving and figure your destination out along the way.

The latter works best. And I can teach you how. I’m Aart and I help companies to innovate. I run workshops and Design Sprints to have solid results and have them fast.