Recently I conducted some guerrilla user research in Amsterdam to gather insights into how people listen to and discover music. The aim was to interview a few people on the street and then use the information to build quick and simple prototypes later in the day.

About eight people from my team took part in the activity and we split up into pairs to find people and ask questions.

Probably one of the most daunting aspects of conducting guerrilla research is having the confidence to walk up to random people in the street and ask for their time. I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to dodging people holding clipboards. My tactic was to make sure my notepad was in my pocket and that when I stopped people I made sure they were aware that I wasn’t trying to sell them anything as its probably one of the first things a person thinks when they’re approached on the street).

After finding a good spot on Rozengracht, we managed to interview around five people. Two of the five were particularly insightful.


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One man was a passionate listener of music and revealed how his social group includes producers, DJ’s and general party types. He listened to music via his Sonos system and had made sure his friends had the Sonos app on their phones so that when people visit his house for a party they can share their music.

He mentioned that he wanted a really tactile experience when it came to his music products and software and that a number of factors were important to him when deciding on what to buy and spend his time with such as aesthetics and how social the product is.

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My colleague Rob asking questions about music in Amsterdam

The other interesting chap we met was someone who actually wasn’t into music at all. I was shocked by his statement that he didn’t listen to music and didn’t care too much about it as I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who doesn’t like music. But as I talked to him further it turned out that on occasions he does listen to music its just that he doesn’t look for it. He made comments about relying on friends for recommendations and also his frustration with how difficult it is to receive shared content to his phone or other devices. I found chatting to this man really insightful.

Although he didn’t really match the profile I was looking for as part of my research I managed to glean some useful information. It just goes to show that you shouldn’t jump to any conclusions too quickly and its good to dig deep during a conversation as it can be very revealing.

After conducting the research the next step was to make use of all the info we had gathered. We used a simple framework for distilling our notes:

SAY: What are some quotes and defining words your user said?
DO: What actions and behaviours did you notice?
THINK: What might your user be thinking? What does this tell you his or her beliefs?
FEEL: What emotions might your subject be feeling?

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W e then set out to refine things even further. The next exercise was to create a mission statement of a user need that we could focus on for the prototyping part of the workshop. To do this we first identified a list user needs and then mapped them to explicit insights that we gleaned from our interviews. In this photo you can see the approach we took.

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The next step was to translate our mission statements into a tangible prototype. Using everyones favourite workshop tool, the Post-It, we set about brainstorming potential ideas we could build from the material we had available (which was mostly cardboard, glue and paper).

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The day ended with a lots of different cardboard and paper prototypes. This photo is one of my favourites, it’s a speaker, designed like a lamp, that can point and localise sound in a specific direction. It was designed for a person who share’s a house with other people and doesn’t want to cause too much disruption.

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