Three, Two, One…Action! Making videos for Oscar worthy Product Research

Here at Jana, we watch lots of videos. While the occasional youtube video may slip in, more often they are videos of our sales people using our internal sales team product, which is called Houston. We think sales people should spend their time doing what they do best – talking to clients. That’s why we make sure our product research uncovers the highest impact features so we can iterate quickly.

Why videos? It’s not just because we employ so many undiscovered A-listers. We’ve found that we achieve better results when we watch people work rather than when we ask for suggestions. This is due to a few reasons:

We’re human!

Annoyances that we’ve experienced more recently or which are personal pet peeves are much more likely to come to the surface versus when we just list a bunch of features to add. We may overlook changes that would be more valuable in terms of time or revenue, because we are not personally bothered by them.

The forest, not the trees.

We want to focus on the entire process, not just one broken link. Sometimes, fixing one thing can create additional problems, so it’s important to have an understanding of the dependencies. For example, videos helped us uncover some important accounting dependencies that had previously been ignored in favor of more exciting features. Now we have lots of of cool features AND can put together accurate invoices.

What’s water?

Remember the story of the fish…

There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys, how’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What the hell is water?” — David Foster Wallace

It’s hard to see things that you are surrounded by or do every day. That’s why it’s important in product research to find ways to see things differently, uncovering assumptions that aren’t explicitly called out by users. Videos help us discover things that we would have missed otherwise.

Play it again, Sam

With a video, we can watch it several times to make sure we’ve gotten all the insights. This is in contrast to interviews, where taking notes can leave out important comments that you may not notice in the moment.

So if videos are so great, how do you make a good one?

  1. Ask the right questions. Start with phrases like “walk me through…” or “show me how…” rather than “what are the things you would change?”. You can ask those questions at the end, but not before you’ve seen how everything fits together.
  2. Kill the director. Be quiet and listen – you’re there to watch what happens naturally. If you ask people to click on things at certain times or interrupt them while they are speaking, you can prompt behaviors that would not normally happen in the wild, throwing off your research.
  3. Be open. If the interviewee clicks into something you didn’t expect, or switches to a different tool, that’s probably because it’s part of their natural process. Allow them to do this so you can see how everything fits together. You may discover something important!

In summary, videos are a great way to do product research… and are pretty fun to make, too!

If you want to make videos with us, we’re hiring


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