I just wanted to contribute to Bradley's previous posts with some discussion of the research that went into the product development process for the BUG.
Research at ECCO Design is driven by the user with the goal of providing actionable insights to our designers that can help them make a better product. Bug Labs posed a unique challenge for us at ECCO’ research team: how can you research a product that can be any other product? Our answer was to approach the BUG project through three pathways:
1: What design and usability challenges would we encounter developing a product like BUG?
2: Who would use this product and what would they want from it?
3: How would the BUG product interact with other consumer electronics products already on the market?
Even beyond the unique challenges of the BUG, as with any new product category our researchers were faced with the difficulty that there isn’t any one product on the market that could serve as a benchmark for the BUG. We needed to be creative in our approach to the needs finding and insight discovery for this product. So we started with what we knew about the product’s vision and grew from there.The BUG with a full set of modules had to be portable in a bag or pocket
-The BUG needed to be easily reconfigurable on the fly
-The BUG would begin its life with early adopters and hobbyists. So this was our initial target segment
-And most importantly, The BUG would never be a better cell phone than a Nokia cell phone, or a better GPS than a Tom Tom, but it would excel in the spaces between existing CE products (Peter expounded on this here http://bugblogger.com/pizza-tail-49/).
Our process for defining our opportunities revolved around immersion studies, body storming in different situations and environments, and a weekly lead user workshop. The immersion studies were conducted with a range of potential users who expressed interest in BUG. The participants were taught the ins and outs of the Bug Labs device and then given a homework assignment to observe their day-to-day activities and brainstorm potential use case scenarios for a BUG in their life. During the brainstorming process our researchers periodically checked in with the participants. At the end of their week we went into the field and observed them demonstrate their use case scenarios with several BUG device mockups. This gave us valuable insight into environmental and usability considerations which would ultimately help to shape the final BUG product.
After our initial immersion studies we began a program of lead user workshops that would serve as our satellite design team. At ECCO, a lead user workshop is essentially a recurring focus group populated by individuals who would be early adopters of technology gadgets like BUG; the folks who are the first to critique and comment on gadgets when they first come out. In this way, we empowered a high energy group of gamers, designers, programmers and overall nerds who would participate in weekly meetings for nearly two months. The group served as a satellite design team, helping to generate and develop solutions for everything from module configurations and positioning to color scheme and potential new modules.
As our exploratory and interpretive efforts were coming to a close the ECCO researchers had created a rough sketch of what the BUG should look like and how the interaction should make the user feel. We then began exploring where the BUG would exist in the landscape of consumer products already on the market. This spawned the question: “What is BUG life?” This question was answered best by our Principal at ECCO, Eric Chan. Eric’s view was that much like the animals for which it is named the BUG had the potential to live all around us in plain site but still be invisible. By reducing the products in the market to their component services, the BUG had the potential to fill the spaces between existing consumer electronics on the market. As such, BUG has the incredible capability to make people think of their devices in terms of the services they provide and thus encourage a creative provider mentality. Ultimately these insights would be a driving force behind the design development of the BUG Labs product.