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Product / App developer series: Empathy & Discovery

MVP App Development Adelaide Series

Product / App developer series: Empathy & Discovery

Welcome to the second post on our series of the product / app development journey in designing an app and building our own MVP, in this post we take a look at idea validation and understanding the problem space.

If you haven’t read part one of this series you can do so here. If you’re looking for an app developer be sure to start a conversation with us now.

In the past article we defined our hypothesis:

We believe that by better understanding the customers

For hospitality business owners

We can Improve customer loyalty by taking meaningful action on their feedback

So that we can increase business revenue without spending more money on sales or marketing

A hypothesis is great, but full of assumptions, before you get too far into developing an app you want to dive into your hypothesis further and start testing to understand more and get a clearer picture about the problem space. 

A good tool that we use when designing an app is called the ‘Double Diamond model’. This model was invented by the British Design Council in 2005 and has seen a few variations over the years, in fact many people were already using this ‘model’ just with different names or maybe not even as a process that was officially defined, but still using the same steps to approach the problem, task or opportunity.

In the Double Diamond there are four key stages: Discover, Define, Develop, Deliver. These stages are not linear however and should represent an ever evolving, iterative process, so depending on what new findings you make, you might jump back or forward a step. We will probably refer back to this model as we write more blog posts about this journey of developing an app, but at this point in time we are in the ‘Discover’ stage. This is where we learn more about the problem and understand its possible solution. 

Double Diamond Model

Designing an app with Empathy

A key tool we use in this stage is something borrowed from Design Thinking – Empathy. 


Empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and ‘see’ things through their eyes. This is extremely important for app developers who want to go beyond just coding functionality, let’s take a look at that Holy Grail again.

“A problem to solve, with a motivated audience, ready to adopt the product”

We need to really understand the people, the needs and the problem that the product is intended to solve to validate whether this is even something worth developing. Not doing this step is a huge risk and more often than not leads to a lot of wasted time and money.

Brené Brown on Empathy

There are three tools we use to build empathy: 

1 Interviews: Talk to potential customers / users who can represent different audiences of the product and use these conversations to find insights into the problems they are currently facing. At this stage you should be looking for quality over quantity. You don’t need to interview tens to hundreds of people.

Some of the insights we gained from this process were invaluable to understanding the problem space, for example one customer who runs 3 hospitality sites in the CBD went on to describe tools they have tried in the past and where they were falling down for them:

We have used ‘QuickTap Survey’ in the past with great success. The data received through this was and has been extremely valuable, but this was more of a market research project than constant ‘live’ customer feedback.

They go on to say:

Another area we have used and tried to push customers to provide feedback to is Google, but this hit some barriers as not everyone has a Google account.

What do these types of insights tell us?

  • The hardest part about what they’re trying to solve
  • Names of Potential Competitors to research
  • Problems faced with using current competitors (opportunities)
  • Overall needs and use cases
  • The current process behind how they are trying to achieve the end result

2 Observation: Give a task to your user and watch. 

I’m sure if you ask someone “Do you have any problem finding music you like to listen to on Spotify?” people will say “No, it’s super easy for me” but if you watch a person doing this from behind their shoulders you will definitely spot pain points through the process (I’m looking at you Spotify ‘Discover Weekly’ which has been destroyed by me using ‘baby sleep white noise tracks’ 👊 💢 !) .

Observation will let you identify issues and pain points that you may not otherwise have picked up in an interview and is a very useful tool in the discovery phase as well as user testing prototypes moving forward.

3 Experience: Use what the customer uses, this could be your own product or a competitor’s product. By doing this you can see direct access to what works well and what are the pain points. For example with Nugg Lyf, we use UberEats (among other delivery platforms) which does provide a feedback mechanism for customers.

Some positives we see from this:

  • It’s consistent
  • It’s not just the extremes that review us so we get the most amount of feedback, not just those who had an amazing or poor experience.
  • They have a specific thumbs up/thumbs down for menu items so we can get somewhat granular


  • You don’t get any reasoning behind the decisions, so there is no actionable feedback you can use to improve for future customers.
  • It’s a long winded process to export the data out (you have to request this) so its difficult to dig into the data for insights
  • The data doesn’t seem to match what we see in the app. Can we trust this?

Once you have gone through the above process you can then layout all of the findings and start to deeply understand the problem space better. Or figure out is there even a problem worth solving to begin with and save that time and money for another problem.

At this stage it’s good to revisit your hypothesis or problem definition and define or redefine it based on your new understandings. You should now know your customer / users better from the Empathy processes and be able to frame the problem from their point of view:

Persona + Need + Insight.

Jane, a hospitality store owner who never wants to lose a customer to an average experience, needs a consolidated way to understand how her customers feel about her store with actionable feedback, because she feels she is spending way too much time jumping between different platforms, she’s also not getting a good understanding about why the feedback is being left so its difficult for her to make improvements .

In the next stage we will take the insights learnt from this process and start to filter through them, and make sense of all the opportunities that were uncovered in this stage.

Until next time!

Are you looking at developing an app?

Appliquette is an award-winning team of app developers, designers, product managers and marketers with over 10 years’ experience creating impactful digital products that help businesses thrive.

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