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Focus on what’s core

Adding value begins with improving the core experience.

At Telewest, Alan Colville was asked to design a new set-top box incorporating a Personal Video Recorder (PVR).

With tight resources, Telewest couldn’t deliver everything on its wish list, but the company was paralyzed over what to drop. So Alan started user-testing competitors’ products to see what mattered to customers.

To his surprise, he found that customers were most concerned with one of the frustrations of recording. If they tried to record two TV shows, they couldn’t watch a third. People complained that often they’d be recording two overlapping shows and wouldn’t be able to change channels.

Overcoming this problem required adding a third TV tuner to the box—a major design change. But Alan’s research showed that customers’ frustration with this point was stronger than their interest in value-added features such as “red button” applications and interactive TV services, both of which had strong business cases but unproven customer need.

The research convinced the directors to switch their resources into the additional tuner. It quickly came to be seen as a competitive advantage and Which? (the UK equivalent of Consumer Reports) points to this flexibility as the box’s major advantage.

When you’re prioritizing features, remember that users value features that relate to their everyday experience of a product. Begin by following the path set in your vision story. For a PVR, the ability to record and watch TV is close to this everyday experience so it’s more important than other features.

Users also value features that eliminate their frustrations effortlessly. When you’re plotting your vision story, look for common frustrations and problems. Features that address these are your next priority. For a PVR, the ability to watch and record several shows at once turned out to be important enough to make it a priority.

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