This year I am the Product Doctor at OTA

Following the success of the Travelling Teen Panels at OTA 2009, I am delighted to be returning to OTA this year as the  Product Doctor.

Let’s talk product – how can you maximise your product to reach your objectives?

Do you have tight product goals? What user need / desire are you meeting? What is your market opportunity? Do you have a product roadmap? Do you have a revenue forecast? How will you encourage repeat use of your product? How are you going to target new users? How are you engaging users to input to your product plans and design? How are you measuring user satisfaction and getting constructive feedback? And more….

The Product Doctor will ask you these and other searching questions and help you bring structure, logic and reality to your product planning.  I am holding a Drop-In Surgery during the event and offering a number of 25-minute complimentary appointments.

To book a consultation, please email me : julia@product doctor.co.uk or catch me at the event.

Friday 12:15 – 1.15 and Saturday 10:30 to 12:10 in 344c, London Imperial.

Can’t wait to get my stethoscope out!

Teen Panel travels to the heart of the Music Industry!

In March 2010, the Teen Panel travelled to the heart of the music industry, Music 4.5 Conference put on by 2 Pears.  Another digital industry that is struggling with revenue models.  Another opportunity to challenge a number of assumptions about young people. Another real world learning opportunity for the teenage panellists!

While we wait for all the teenagers to arrive, mobiles are out of the pocket & provide the perfect ice-breaker! This is Nuru and Chris.

Prep time! I show the teenagers the conference room and we talk about how we will work the stage. They practice their introductions based on the collages they have prepared. They are assured that the audience will be hanging on their every word & they are encouraged to just be themselves!

 

Off we go - session format is introduced - in this case, we will have panel introductions, followed by 4 pitches and breaks for feedback after each one. Q&A at the end.

The Panel Introduce themselves

Rachel, 17, private school, West London

Shivz, 19, Hackney Youth Enterprise Project

Nuru, 17, Chestnut Grove comprehensive school, Balham

Chris, 17, Chestnut Grove comprehensive school, Balham

Yasmin, 17, Newbury Park comprehensive school, Newbury

Craig, 18, Newbury Park comprehensive school, Newbury

The first industry presenter takes the stage – Robert Thomas from RJDJ.

Robert invites one of the panellists to demo the product. Shivz, an emerging DJ happily takes the stage for a live rap!

The audience goes wild and Shivz becomes the star of the show! RJDJ is an i-Phone App, that creates music live for the user, in response to their surrounding sounds picked up by the microphone and their movement. The user becomes the artist. During the demo, it felt as if the product was not shown off to its full potential. The focus was on Shivz’ live rap, rather than the functionality of the product.

Tube Radio's Rogerio Mota

TubeRadio.fm helps you find, organise and listen to music videos on the web – they are developing an i-Phone App. While the TubeRadio.fm presentation felt a bit more like an investor pitch, the product was clearly demonstrated – It is a music video site that is positioned to improve the experience of watching music videos online.

Henrik Berggren from CitySounds.fm introduced a rather novel new service!

CitySounds.fm enablers their users to listen and discover the latest music from cities around the world. It shows the latest chart is where you find recently updated cities; offers individual city pages for more tracks, genres and stats and the popular chart showing the 32 most popular cities. Users can help a city climb the chart by tweeting or sharing it on Facebook.

James Tonkin from Zova gets energetic!

Zova is “the world’s first music + rhythm football training programme.” Specific drum rythms correspond to particular training excercises which are demonstrated by professionals on their media device. I would have liked to show this to a panel of young people that are specifically football training. On this particular panel, only two of the boys used to train.

Key Insights

    1. “Make it work on all phones” – or do we just bide our time?
    While Teens do want to try out new stuff now, as with many other new products, such as picture messaging, the market needs to bide its time for the hardware to move through its natural lifecycle. I would propose that in terms of market penetration in the younger generation, the i-Phone is still in the Introduction Phase. Younger teens often start their mobile life with the parents old phone or with prepay, so perhaps we need to wait another year or two. None of the teen panellists in the last three sessions I have run have an i-Phone or an Android. As per previous blogs, Blackberries are quite popular with the more affluent teens, where they will buy the same phones as their friends to get the free blackberry messenger service. I have also come across an example of a teen that has a Blackberry because it was a hand-me-down from a parent.

    2. The Teens were good at finding uses and recognising practical benefits for the products they were shown.
    These observations provide great insight to help companies develop their user positioning. Caution! These young people responded really well to new ideas – the “shiny” effect! However, this does not mean that they would actually become a user of the product.
    – RJDJ
    “I like the idea of being able to note lyrics really easily when you’re on the go…” But surely there are other ways to do this – Pen/Paper or Recorder on phone?!
    – TubeRadio.fm
    “This is actually something I’ve been looking for myself. I really like the idea of music videos in a playlist, and being able to play them at a party.”
    “I like the fact that you can watch a load of music videos in succession
    – CitySounds.fm
    “It’s artsy, I like that about it, and the fact that you can capture the essence of different cities. It’s a really good idea, and I haven’t heard of anything like that before.”
    “I do like the idea of music from different locations and backgrounds… This is going to be great for new artists looking to promote their own music.”
    Rachel travels to see family in Brazil regularly and could see that this is something she would use.
    – Zova
    “you’ve got harsh competition – Nike, Adidas”

    3. The Teens wanted to make sure that the product offered choices, particularly in the selection of music, where they wanted to be able to discover music by genre.
    – RJDJ
    “I think this is a really amazing app … but it only focuses on urban genres like hip-hop.”
    “Can you use other instruments – can you put in a guitar?”
    – TubeRadio.fm
    “Will you be doing a mobile version that’s easier to use?”
    “Would you be able to buy the videos so you can watch them on your iPod?”
    “I think it’s really good… The only thing is will you be able to use it on your phone?”
    – CitySounds.fm
    “say I click on Barcelona, can I choose a genre, or does it just come up with the top songs?”
    “I can’t really relate to that. There’s a certain genre I listen to in the morning…”
    “From your presentation it looks like it only focuses on dance music. What I’d like to see is to have some sort of mood setting”
    “I’m a bit confused whether I like it or not really. I tend to stick to one genre at a time. Is it really new artists, or only the latest tracks coming onto the radio within that country?”
    – Zova
    “you should stretch to more sports than just football”
    “I don’t play football, but I saw in the video you had a skateboarder in the background, so you could stretch to a different type of sport.”
    “It would be good for general fitness – maybe use within a gym”
    “Not everyone listens to that music. I’m from London, I’m not from Sao Paulo… ”

    4. Is it free? Are young people spending money on music?
    All the presenters were asked this question. Shivz thought it was a misconception that young people are not spending money on music. He asked the audience how they thought that artists like Tinchy Stryder had managed so many music sales – was it really the older generations that would buy that style of music? I am sure that there are stats somewhere to shed some light on this? See Vic Keegan’s article!
    Tube Radio is free – at which point the audience began to scratch is communal head! So how will they make money?
    One of the panellists commented “it’s good that it’s free, because most teenagers don’t really want to spend money on anything!”

    5. Adopting familiar user interfaces is a good idea!
    When teens are presented with products, they will naturally liken them to products that they are already familiar with. This is useful for companies to hear where this group see the natural competitors, and it is also an indication that companies could reference these other sites in their material to help get across what their product does.
    Tube Radio –
    “I like the idea how it’s quite the same layout as iTunes, so people will be familiar with it”.
    “I thought it was good, and quite interested in the way you combine iTunes and YouTube”

    6. Teens show their sophistication
    Citysounds.fm – “would you have to enter the city you’re in, or would it automatically work it out?” (It is automatic)
    Zova – Some of the panellists struggled with the practicality of listening to music while they were football training.
    “It would be good for general fitness – maybe use within a gym”
    “I think it could be a good idea for workout sessions.”
    “You can’t listen to music when you’re training, unless it’s in the gym.”
    “I was at Butlins, and these kids came over and they were playing music, and I was like ‘why are you playing music? We’re playing football!’

    CitySounds.fm and TubeRadio.fm were the most popular with the panel and RJDJ had a shout out from Shivz.

    Unfortunately, due to previous sessions over-running, the Q&A was cut from the session. Shivz was invited on stage by Mike Butcher and Jemima Kiss to join their closing remarks. He wondered why there weren’t more labels at the conference and naturally he put in his pitch for any free stuff that was going!

    Jemima & Shivz - Closing Remarks

     

    Thanks to Richard Cardwell and “pevijo” on Flickr for the photographs.

Music 4.5 – Quick Feedback!

I am taking a quick break and will be posting the teen insights from The Travelling Teen Panel at Music 4.5 by 20th March, so please bear with me and watch this space!  In the meantime, here is some feedback from the conference:

“the teen panel was really cool” Mike Butcher, Techcrunch

“they were saying the sorts of things that venture capitalists do” Jemima Kiss, Guardian

“Great training for startups – definitely scarier than presenting to VCs. Yes indeed.” @sitar

As you will know, my passion is around creating relevant and engaging learning experiences for young people, I can now also add “the creation of opportunities” to that list.  Shivz Dotz, one of the Travelling Teen panelists is a young DJ from a youth enterprise scheme in Hackney – he has been mobbed all day with offers from various elements of music industry.   He did an on the spot rap to show off the RJDJ product and has told the oldies how teens and music really work.   Suspect the job offers will roll in!

Seeking presenters for Music 4.5 Conference, 4th March!

I am getting ready for the next Travelling Teen Panel that will take the stage at the Music 4.5 conference on March 4th 2010.

Music 4.5 will bring together music tech start-ups, serial entrepreneurs, investors, artists, band managers and key industry players to share knowledge, discuss strategies for business success and debate market trends and evolution.

I am lining up a panel of 6 young people, aged 16 – 18 years old from a variety of backgrounds to give their feedback to the latest and greatest offerings from the music industry.

I have Zova (website coming soon) and RjDj lined up to present to the panel, and I have space for 2 more presenters. Here are the reasons why you really want to do this!

  1. This is a great way to show the world how keen you are to listen to your users
  2. You may find out some nuggets of information that could save you development and marketing costs down the line
  3. As we know, feedback is a gift – and in this case, it is a free gift as the event organisers are offering a FREE TICKET for each presenter!

If you have a product or service or a marketing campaign that you are targeting at teenage users and you want to take part, all you will need to do is prepare a 4 minute pitch that explains the user experience – I recommend that you do not do a live demo, but instead show a film or presentation.  I will be on hand to help you with any questions that you have during this preparation.

On the day itself, you will make your presentation to the panel, which is facilitated by me and immediately afterwards, you will receive 6 minutes of feedback. The panel may ask you some questions and they may even give you some ideas on how to best develop or position your offering.

The session will start at 11.50 and the conference is at Cavendish Conference Centre, 22 Duchess Mews, London, W1G.9DT

I always write up the key insights from the event on my blog, and you can see a sample of this here:

So come on, mail me through the “Contact” page on my blog or direct to julia.shalet@googlemail.com and let’s start talking!

Youth Insights from Mobile Heroes Conference

On December 7th, I took a panel of 16-18 year olds to a conference all about Mobile, called Heroes of the Mobile Screen at the National Film Theatre, to give feedback to 5 product pitches for new digital services.

Before you go any further, please note that I have designed the Travelling Teen Panel to give businesses a quick  “toe-dip” into youth opinion.  As the panel is only 6 strong, this does not reflect the youth market in a broad sense so the statements I make below are in the context of this panel only.

My intention is for the sessions to be both insightful and entertaining.  Going by the twittersphere surrounding each show, I am pleased to say I am confident that I deliver both.  Feedback from the parents, teachers and teens who have taken part in the sessions strongly indicates that I am also meeting my further objective, which is to create relevant and engaging learning experiences for young people.

As my Panels continue to travel, I will continue to write, so thanks for dropping by and I hope to see you again!

Here are the pre-task presentations that each of the panellists made to show people, places and things that they are into.

Alex, 17, from Park House state school, Newbury

Camilla, 16, from Park House state school, Newbury

Shivz, 18, from Rising Tide music and enterprise charity, Hackney

Rebecca, 17, Rising Tide music and enterprise charity, Hackney

Nic, 18, from King Alfred private school, North London

Rachel, 17, from King Alfred private school, North London

The Presenters had 4 minutes each to present their offering and then received feedback and questions from the panel after each presentation.

Flook – An iPhone app that lets you discover and share the world around you by simply swiping through a stream of nearby flook cards. With flook’s innovative new user interface, local discovery is just as easy as swiping through your photo library. Cards have a full-screen photo and some text and they’re also geo-located – placed at a specific location for you to find when you’re nearby. Over time, flook learns which cards people like most, and then shows them to you first. Flook also offers a point system for regular use.

Live Talkback – Live Talkback is used by businesses to enable audiences to vote via the web, mobile phones (iPhone and Nokia) and TV screens on live events. This service lets people find out what is going on in their area and vote on it.

payByMobile – Shop online and pay by texting from your mobile. Users load credit on to their new mobile wallet at most places that offer prepay top up. Users select the new paybyMobile option at the online check out and text the unique code to 51525. It works on every mobile phone, both contract and pre-pay, and is free to the end-user.

Psonar – A music service where you can listen, discover, buy and share your music knowing that it is all backed up. It offers a PC and mobile interface and will let you play your music wherever you want to (iPod, phone, laptop etc).

Animentals by Fluid Pixel Studios – An online and mobile game for Nokia phones where you play for a week to rehabilitate an “Animentals” cyber-pet. Users pay £3.00 to download the game to their mobile.

The Key Insights

1. “We already have something that does this for us”

  • LiveTalkback – reference was made to Facebook
  • Psonar – reference was made to iTunes plus they already have the ability to move music around by using your USB in to your laptop where their music is stored. One panellist commented that Spotify already lets you put your music on your iPhone or iPod. While one user liked the idea because they have merged the music parts of MySpace and iTunes, they felt that it would be very difficult for them to take on iTunes as it is already very advanced and has lots of customers.
  • Animentals – reference was made to other cyper-pets e.g. on Facebook
  • Flook – reference was made to Flickr and Facebook (although the location-based mobile access is not covered by those existing offerings)
  • payByMobile – some of the users felt that they already had payment methods that worked for them; but bear in mind these are older teens that have bank accounts. Also note that they did not liken it to anything that they already knew existed that enabled people to pay using their mobile for online purchases.
  • This overall view was challenged by one of the panellists who pointed out that not everyone wants to use the old service and they love to find new things.

2. Teens are sophisticated in their questions and observations

  • How do you make money? (to payByMobile where the retailer pays a fee for each transaction)
  • I wouldn’t particularly want someone to go through my music (Psonar)
  • Suggestion to Animentals that they targeted social network sites younger than Facebook
  • One panellist commented that the name “Live Talkback” sounds like an answer-phone service rather than a voting capability
  • Sounding like an older user(!), one panellist said that it would be nice to not have to fiddle about with pins and card numbers when presented with the ease of payByMobile.

3. Teens demand social and rich media capabilities

  • In response to Live Talkback – on Facebook, you can take the discussion further and interact with people on their responses – this was not obviously available on Live Talkback
  • One panellist commented that he liked Flook as it had all the social capabilities built in to further discussion with other users
  • Flook was also liked because they felt that teens took a lot of pictures and they liked the idea that this would turn teenagers in to the paparazzi when they saw celebrities
  • Facebook and iTunes were mentioned frequently as leaders in their field
  • They described a “basic” phone as one with a camera
  • It is a given that they all use MSN Messenger and some referenced their blackberry purchase was so that they could use the IM functionality. Interesting that they shorthanded Blackberry Messenger as “BBM”

4. Young people know how to get things for free and are very money-conscious

  • “Do you have to pay for it?” is a common question
  • One response to Animentals was that they can already play games for free online so they would not pay for it
  • Rebekah suggest that payByMobile offer an incentive to encourage her to use the service. (Different payment methods attract different processing charges to retailers, so this approach could be viable, as long as it is presented very cleanly in the user interface).
  • Shivz asked Psonar whether they are a legit version of Limewire
  • On mention of a point system from Flook, one panellist quizzed the presenter about what benefits she would get

5. Late teens see themselves as much older than the early teens and they want to be addressed differently

  • Many comments throughout were about how to target their age group and talk their language
  • Rachel loved payByMobile reflecting that she is a sophisticated consumer – she would use it for eBay purchases and also felt that it would be really useful for parents teaching their children how to manage their personal budget.
  • Animentals was universally considered too young for this group, although one panellist said he may play it if he was really bored.
  • Another panellist commented that she already had a pet and it was hard enough to keep her alive

6. Dispersed Mobile preferences

  • Concerns where raised where services were restricted to a particular mobile manufacturer or model
  • In the group, they all had different preferences – Alex has a Sony Ericsson W300i – “the only one probably that still works in the world!”;  Camilla has a simple Nokia but would like a T-Mobile Pulse;  Shivz wants to “…Keep it simple. I don’t like iPhone, I don’t like BlackBerry. It’s people like you who have those phones…” (addressing a “grown-up” audience of mobile and brand professionals); Rebekah likes her simple phone, but would get a smaller BlackBerry with a touchscreen if one came along;  Nic has a BlackBerry Bold that he got on an upgrade and Rachel also has a BlackBerry, which was originally bought for the “BBM”.

7. Safety and Bullying – This was raised as a question in the Q&A session

  • Generally, the panellists were not concerned over safety online, they were very comfortable about their ability to control their online privacy and understood the tools they had or needed to do this. This echoes their sophistication as per the point above.
  • Alex said that he tries to take non-embarrassing photos of himself and if he does, then it should be his call to publish it or not.
  • One user did wonder whether Flook could lead to online bullying through uploading of photos, but Flook assured that while they had been concerned about this, they had no reports of such behaviour to date. Flook also described the safety measures that they had and the panel understood and accepted the mechanisms.
  • They mentioned that on Facebook it is easy as when they publish only their friends can see.
  • They were all aware of the privacy settings that all the social networks offered Rebekah is busy using social media to promote her various music projects and tries to make posts about what she is doing rather than directly about her private life.

Flook was the most popular service amongst the panel.

Teens from Digital Youth Insights session at Dec 09 Conference

Here is “The Really Mobile Project” interview with 4 of the 6 teen panelists from the youth insights session that I put together for Heroes of the Mobile Screen Conference.

I am delighted that the session was so well received and that it met my objectives of providing an insightful and entertaining experience for the industry group and a relevant and engaging learning experience for the young people. I will publish my key insights over the next few days.

Getting ready for Teenage Mobile Heroes at HOTMS Conference!

Having great fun getting ready for the next installment of the Travelling Teen Panel for the wonderful HOTMS – Heroes of the Mobile Screen Conference on December 7th.

I have a great mix of panelists from a variety of backgrounds, with a good range of different interests and hailing from different parts of the country – from Hackney to North London and across to Newbury!

They are busy doing their pre-task and getting to grips with using Dropbox as a way to pass over images to me of people, places and things that help to describe who they are. While this is not a topic for the panel on December 7th, it is interesting to see how they get to grips with it – and how intuitive the user interface really is! They are all looking forward to playing Dragons and excited about the range of offerings that are going to be presented to them.

So now what we need are presenters! If you have a teenage offering – from a product or service through to marketing campaign and want the gift of feedback this could be just what you are looking for! You will make a 5 minute pitch to the teenage panel, they will then have the opportunity to ask you some questions and after that, they will tell you what think and may even give you some ideas to develop your offering further.
You can see how this worked at the OTA Conference by going to my previous blog post on OTA. My top tip is to concentrate the presentation on the user experience. The organisers are also offering a FREE TICKET to the conference as an incentive! So come on, BE MY HERO!!

If you want to talk about this opportunity further, please get in touch through the contact form on my blog.

Mobile Youth Report (OTA ’09)

The DragonsI was invited to run a session at a mobile developers conference Over the Air (OTA’09) by Daniel Appelquist. I saw a great opportunity to bring a panel of teenagers in and give the conference attendees an opportunity to pitch the Dragons – after all, feedback is a gift!

The Panel (pictured here) are Nick (17, nearly 18), Rachel (17), Sophie (14), Aidan (14, nearly 15) and Peter (13). All live within the M25and are well educated mobile-savvy Teenage Dragons. See link here for more pictures of the session aswell as the “people, places and things I like” presentations that they each put together prior to the session: http://icanhaz.com/otadragons

The products that were pitched were
1. Locomatrix – a mobile, outdoor, gaming platform that allows users to design their own games. ‘Jumpers for goalposts for the Wii generation… Bringing gaming back outside’
www.locomatrix.com

2. Qootia – interactive digital signage platform that enables user interaction with content on big displays – i.e. moving on from traditional billboards, advertisers can deliver messages that viewers can interact with using their mobile phones
www.qootia.com

3. Wikitude from Mobilizy – presents the user with data about their surroundings, nearby landmarks, and other points of interest by overlaying information on the real-time camera view of a smart-phone (with a touch screen). “Geo-tag the world”
www.wikitude.org

4. Traveline / Next Buses – gives the next bus times anywhere in Scotland, England and Wales straight to the mobile phone
www.traveline.org.uk/nextbus.htm

Before I share the insights with you, I must point out that this was a sample of 5 teenagers – all rather well – heeled! In addition, the users viewed demos of the products rather than being able to try them out themselves. These insights help to deepen our user understanding but must not be used to make broad statements about what teenage users want. This is a good starting point for further insight gathering activities – user design workshops especially.

Insights
1. Useful won over Entertaining
Whenever I review digital products I advise that the offering should be highly useful, highly entertaining, or preferably both – a useful product must still offer an entertaining user interface. The highest ranked products in this session were the Next Buses / Traveline service and Wikitude.
– Sophie thought that everyone she knew would use the Wikitude service as it was so useful
– Nick said the Next Buses service was “a good idea and practical”

2. The importance of the user experience
Our current teen generation have grown up with technological innovations and as such, they have experienced some poor experiences with early lifecycle products. If the user experience is too clunky, slow or laborious, they will quickly give up trying and move on. For each of the products, questions were raised about how they would start using the offering and how much they cost. Katrina commented in her documentation of the session that “although apt at figuring out gadgets for themselves, quick, visual instructions that clearly illustrate concepts and functionality are key to capturing teens’ attention.”
– Peter asked about Locomatrix “Why would I pay for an application for a game I can just make up/imagine for myself?”
– Peter was also concerned that some of the applications would only work on certain phones.
– Rachel commented that she would be unlikely to take her phone out while she was waiting at the bus stop as she didn’t want to be mugged

3. The teens were good at building on the ideas that were presented
I am a firm believer in facilitating end users to help companies build out their offering and keeping users engaged throughout the whole development process. This panel had good ideas for each of the products presented to them and I would recommend further innovation & design workshops with the teens to flesh out the ideas further.
– Aidan suggested that Traveline/Next bus “would be more useful if you could link it to live updates across all other forms of public transport; most of my friends use Tube, trains and buses and often a combination of 2 or more for a single journey”
– Nick suggested that the Traveline/Next bus should “add a countdown system” and also that Wikitude should add “user feedback and comments” to make the content more engaging and social.

4. Some apprehension towards the overlay of the virtual in to the real world
– On the winning application – Wikitude, Nick commented that “The beauty of travel to new places is the fun of exploring and discovering new places. Doesn’t this app take away the authenticity of that experience?”
– This challenge was echoed by Aidan with regard to the Locomatrix offering: “Why would we go outdoors to play a lo-tech mobile game when we have amazing visually and intellectually challenging computer games?”
– Nick was also concerned about taking virtual gaming outside (Locomatrix) “doesn’t that contradict the whole idea of bringing reality out from behind the screen?”

5. Be Cool!
Peter was concerned over the Locomatrix offering – “it wouldn’t look cool to be gaming outdoors”. He suggested that it could work better with a younger age group. Rachel thought some of the video presentations for the products were “very cool”, however it did not distract her from questioning the presenters on the content and usability. Once again, I can’t stress enough how important it is to engage your potential users and ask them what they think is cool. We oldies often get it wrong!

6. Reality hit for offerings where users can build their own games
There are some great examples from the virtual gaming space of users creating content – a great recent example I have seen is Roblox. Aside from the necessity to make the user interface really intuitive, it must be remembered that the majority of users will consume the offering that is presented to them while a smaller group engage in the creation of content. When I reference “building content”, I mean to the degree that Locomatrix enables users to build their own games rather than the lower level of self-expression when for example users choose items from virtual stores for their avatars. This was reflected in this teen panel, where one of the teens seemed to like the idea of creating his own games and the others were rather confused.

Katrina, who was documenting this session, puts this well as she considers Screen wars: Consoles v Mobile Apps: “Modern day teens into gaming have been brought up on Sony PS, X-box and Nintendo and have become accustomed to:
– HD graphics and cutting-edge technology as standard computer game issue.
– “Intelligent” games/challenges with increasing levels of difficulty.
– Having their pick from a wide range and variety of games designed FOR them.
While mobile gaming apps can’t (yet) match the high-tech specs of console games, they need to offer something else to attract and sustain the attention of a demanding teen gaming community. Moreover, how much does this target market actually want to be involved in co-creating a game when off-the-shelf professional games are quick and easy to access, relatively affordable and easy to use?”

7. Don’t pull the wool over their eyes!

Most of the teen panel struggled with the idea of Qootia. From previous insight sessions that I have run, today’s teens are really savvy and they are prepared to openly engage with brands if they feel the benefit of doing so and/or if they think the brand/product is “cool”. Tomaz from Qootia was pushed by the panel who were trying to understand the offering and he did suggest that it could be “useful for finding ‘lost’ friends at music festivals or for killing time while waiting at the bus stop”. They got that, but they still couldn’t quite understand what the user experience would be. It would have come to life for them if a clear scenario had been presented, for example, a multi-player big screen game brought to you by a particular brand advertiser where users could work their character in the game using their mobile. Suggest that someone sponsors me to run a further session in to mobile and digital advertising as it would be fascinating to get teens views in this area – I have good insight from the virtual world environment.

8. Blackberry vs iPhone
The two older teens were devoted to their blackberries and the younger teens desperately wanted iPhones. From research that I ran over a year ago, the blackberry was storming the teen market because of free Instant Messaging and ease of using facebook. The adult debates around platforms were echoed by the teens as Peter expressed frustration about Wikitude “Most teens don’t have an Android or iPhone”. One of the panel further quizzed the presenter of Wikitude about why handset manufacturers can’t include a compass and location based services in their handsets.

Audience Feedback
The session was very well received by the audience with comments like “…Teens asking great questions – answers are less clear…this kids panel is better than venture capitalists when it comes to grilling the presenters…strong feeling people are better at communicating their technology rather than the benefits and uses of it…best tips on product marketing and development that I have heard in a while…”

Panel Feedback
The panel continued to mix with presenters and attendees after the sessions having great discussions around the business models, careers in the developer industry and how to pitch effectively to the youth market. They got to practice giving constructive feedback (as “I like it / don’t like it” was not an acceptable answer!) and while they were nervous about being in front of an audience, they really seemed to enjoy and revel in the opportunity to speak publicly and have their views heard. Infact, the audience were hanging off their every word! The parents that accompanied their teens on the day all felt that it had been a great development experience and all were keen to be involved in further sessions.

Presenters Feedback
Each presenter received atleast one piece of teen feedback on their product that surprised them – some smacked their forehead in disbelief that they hadn’t thought of it earlier! Each agreed that it was really worth engaging users and realised how easy it can be to do so – (with experienced facilitation of course!).

Thanks to Katrina Damianou for documenting this session and to Sam Easterby-Smith for taking the pictures.

Teen Mobile Panel – Sept 09

Next Saturday morning (26th Sept 09) I will be running a Dragon’s Den style panel with four teenage Dragons and pitches from mobile application developers.

This is a session at OTA 2009 – 24 Hours of Mobile Development, Imperial College London, September 25 – 26, 2009. Over the Air is a grassroots mobile developer event, organised by Betavine, Lonely Planet, and OMTP.

My objectives are to
1. Provide an opportunity for developers to get feedback to their products from a live panel of teenagers
2. Reinforce the importance of user input in the development process
3. Provide some insights on current attitudes / lifestyle of our sample modern day teens

I am looking forward to a lively, practical and insightful session with a ban on technical jargon!