A manufacturer of industrial label printers wanted to develop a new printer that leveraged a smartphone app. In theory it would be used by field technicians such as network installers, electricians, plumbers, and so on. However, there were several risks to this endeavor:
- Solution is predetermined by a stakeholder.
- Technology platforms are predetermined by a stakeholder.
- Extremely compressed timeline.
- Steep learning curve as no in-house talent has any previous experience with the technology platform.
- Standalone handheld printers already exist. This product might not be solving the right problem.
- Previous smartphone apps have not been very successful because they added little value to standalone handheld printers.
- Previous research shows that older technicians do not like using smartphone apps.
Conduct research that answers the following questions:
- How do field technicians print labels in the field today?
- Do field technicians use smartphones for their jobs?
- Do field technicians share files with their smartphones?
- If so, how do they share files (email, cloud storage, etc)?
- Would field technicians be interested in ways to reprint existing labels from a file?
- Would field technicians be interested in ways to print new labels directly from a blueprint?
- Do field technicians understand how to connect devices to their smartphones?
- If so, which connection method is preferred (USB, WiFi, Bluetooth)?
- Would field technicians be interested in a portable printer?
- Would field technicians be interested in a wearable printer?
- Would field technicians be interested in a printer that could be used from atop a ladder?
- Do field technicians think our concept of a portable printer is at the right price point?
I began by creating dozens of illustrations and high level conceptual user flow sketches. These would be used as conversation aids.
Next, I conducted a series of focus groups with electricians who use label printers.
- 2 days, 16 participants
- I guided conversations around label printing using the illustrations above.
- I also showed physical mockups of printer and wearable accessories.
We learned the following from our focus group participants:
- Almost all use a smartphone for work.
- Proposed solution is at the appropriate price point.
- Printing is usually not done in the field, but might be preferred.
- Good understanding of Bluetooth, and it is preferred.
- Strong interest in the ability to share label designs with coworkers.
- A solution that could interact with their project plan software seemed far-fetched, or magical.
- Concern that the proposed solution requires 2 devices that are battery powered, where a failure in either would leave the user without the ability to print.
- Strong desire in a printer powered by readily-available alkaline batteries to avoid recharging in the field.
- No interest in a touch screen unless it allowed the printer to operate standalone (without a mobile app).
- No interest in a wearable printer.