I think Jobs was right.
It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.
– Steve Jobs
I think about Jobs a lot when preparing to do focus groups in advance of developing a new intervention. We spend a lot of time asking users what they want to read, what they want to see, and how they’ll react to certain messages. This is another way in which the research community has adopted conventions that are quite unlike what you see in the industry. Focus groups are rapidly becoming a thing of the past as designers realize that creativity (and not resurvey questions) are the best way to appeal to users.
The genius of Apple is that its designers often imagine what we want — without us knowing about it. I remember the first time that I pinched to zoom. I would never have been able to imagine a need for such a feature, let alone been able to articulate it. But, almost immediately, pinching became part of my muscle memory. It’s so intuitive that my 2 year old picked up the motion without instruction.
This all makes me wonder whether our time could be better spent designing, creating, and innovating as opposed to responding to the expressed needs of people who — like me — probably won’t know what they want until they see it.