As mentioned in my previous question,

The target segments of my customers are professionals (engineers/sales), and being in an Asian country ( south east asia to be exact), even the professionals are not good in expressing what they want and what they need. I have a hard time to get them talking and express their opinion. When I present my prototype in front of them, usually they would not have any opinion at all.

After I asked that question, I realized that what I am interested is how to do Customer Development, not UX design. I would need to be able to know what does the customer want first, before I can get to design prototype and mockup.

However,as mentioned above, my target market is very quiet during customer interview period. It makes my customer development/discovery job very hard.

Any idea how to handle this?

2 Answers 2


Reticent customers that don't want to hurt your feelings or express unmet needs? This reminds me of a paper I read a few years back about a technique for usability testing, called The Bollywood Technique. The researchers set up a usability test of a travel booking site. Normally a task would be expressed in neutral terms: "Book a flight from City A to City B for the lowest fare you can find." In The Bollywood Technique, the idea is to give users a values-based reason to care about getting on that flight. The example given is "Your niece is getting married in City B. (You live in City A.) You just learned that her fiancee is a bigamist! Book a flight to City B - you don't have a moment to spare to stop that wedding!"

The users opened up a whole lot more when their fictional niece's future happiness was on the line, and noted delays in page loading, and other difficulties that typically reticent users would never offer up in an interview setting.

I'm not suggesting that you give up on interviewing and replace that activity with a usability test, but it's clear you need another way of eliciting this information. And you do have a prototype. Why not let them accomplish some tasks using it?

If you do decide to interview, I have found that if I make the questions about their day, their goals and their tasks, and gain as much understanding about the context that my system lives in, I learn much more than if I ask questions about what they want. Because they don't know what they want, but they are experts on what they do. So ask about that.

  • And you do have a prototype. Why not let them accomplish some tasks using it? I don't think this is desirable nor possible. A prototype by definition is something that is very crude and completely unusable from customer's perspective. So how can they use it to accomplish some tasks?
    – Graviton
    Jul 27, 2013 at 4:34
  • Not literally. Accomplish some artificial tasks while you observe, so that you can watch their thought process unfold and gain insights. Jul 27, 2013 at 5:06

As a rule of thumb when you show your designs/wireframes/prototype to these users, ask a question, like how would go about completing 'x' using this prototype?

Let them know that you are testing the interface and not testing their skills or abilities. That any feedback given to you, whether good or bad, is not going to offend you.

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