Identifying Problems

  • Understand types of problems
  • Learn about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
  • Identify different communities you belong to
  • Begin documenting your community’s needs
  • Brainstorm problems you’d like to solve in your community

FINDING PROBLEMS

feet going up stairs

Your first step!

Finding a problem to solve

girl at computer thinking of many ideas

Ideation

It is one of the hardest parts of the Technovation project!

the word focus in tiles

Problem First

Focus on finding the problem. Don't start with a solution!

START WITH COMMUNITIES

One strategy for coming up with problems is to start is with your community.

We all belong to or are a part of groups, such as our school peers or sports teams. 

Many groups are also communities. 

A community is a group of people who have something in common. A community could be

the people who live in the same place or

a group that shares similar interests.

You may be surprised by how many communities you belong to!

COMMUNITIES ARE BASED ON DIFFERENT THINGS

People who go to the same school, or who live in the same city or country

school children

People who enjoy the same hobbies, like playing on the same sports team or playing the same online games

girls playing volleyball

People who identify as a certain race, ethnicity, or gender

three African American women

People who follow the same religion

men at mosque praying

Stop
and
Discuss

Can you name some other types of communities?

girls discussing
girl looking through magnifying glass

Identify your community’s needs.

Look at the world around you and observe your community closely.

Your observations and evidence will later help support your team’s eventual solution, and how it effectively solves your community’s needs.

Let’s start with …

How well do you know your community

 

The next two activities will help you become more aware of the communities you belong to, and the problems they might face.

ACTIVITY 1: UNDERSTANDING YOUR COMMUNITY

Estimated time: 15 minutes

Follow the instructions in worksheet (Page 1) to

Brainstorm at least four different communities you are a part of or interested in helping then pick two to list some characteristics for. Then choose one community to focus on for the next two parts of the worksheet.
Download worksheet

ACTIVITY 2: UNDERSTANDING YOUR COMMUNITY

Estimated time: 60 minutes

Follow the instructions in worksheet (Page 2) to

Prepare for, and then take a field trip out into your community to observe and learn more. Take notes on what you see during your trip.
Download worksheet

PUTTING PROBLEMS IN CATEGORIES

As you identify problems you might want to solve, it helps to categorize them.

One way to categorize them is by looking at the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

This can help you understand underlying issues and direct you towards research for your problem.

3 squares and one diamond

U.N. SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are 17 goals that the United Nations has agreed are important to solve. They include 5 main areas:

Basic human needs and rights

such as water, food, sleep, clothing, shelter, good education

globe

Environment

such as climate action, access to clean water, renewable energy

Safety Needs

such as health, well-being, safety against accidents and illness

Social needs

such as friendships, family, acceptance by others, respect, productivity

Individual action

such as equality, peace, and justice

Here is the full list of the 17 goals

UN Sustainable Development Goals

ACTIVITY 3: CATEGORIZING PROBLEMS

Estimated time: 20 minutes

Follow the instructions in worksheet (Page 1) to

Categorize some example problems according to the UN SDGs.
Download worksheet

BRAINSTORMING

After observing your community, you might have identified some good problems you want to work on, or you might still be uncertain. So, let’s try to think of more problems you can tackle, by brainstorming.

Brainstorming is a group activity that is meant to generate a large number of ideas. As you brainstorm you might feel vulnerable as you contribute different ideas. This is normal!

Two heads with ideas coming out the top

BRAINSTORMING TIPS

Click on the wheels inside the gears below to learn a tip!

head silhouette with gears

Be sure to capture all ideas, even wild ones!

No judgement, on other people's ideas, or on your own!

Build off each other's ideas.

One conversation at a time - don't cut each other off.

Be visual - you can draw instead of writing words.

Go for as many ideas as you can.

Stay focused.

HOW NOT TO BRAINSTORM

Here is a video that shows examples of less effective ways to go about brainstorming, and more effective ways, so you can better understand this process

There are many different ways to brainstorm. Some examples are below. Do what makes sense for your team.

ACTIVITY 4: BRAINSTORMING PROBLEMS

Estimated time: 20 minutes

Using your brainstorming strategy, follow the instructions in worksheet (Page 2) to

Start to brainstorm different problem ideas based on issues you uncovered when thinking about community or looking at the UN SDGs.
Download worksheet

ACTIVITY 5: CATEGORIZING PROBLEMS

Estimated time: 20 minutes

Follow the instructions in worksheet (Page 3) to

Categorize some of your brainstormed problems according to the UN SDG categories, just like you did with the example problems on page 1.
Download worksheet

REFLECTION

This lesson took A LOT of thought and work.

Hopefully it has sparked some ideas for you.

Ask yourself these questions:

Sunset and reflection over lake
Did you learn more about your community?
Did you uncover any new or different problems?
What activities or strategies worked best for your team?
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REVIEW OF KEY TERMS

  • Ideation  – The process of coming up with ideas
  • Sustainable Development Goals – The United Nations’ commitments to reduce poverty and help the environment
  • Brainstorming – A way to think of a lot of ideas quickly
  • Community A group of people who have something in common

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

App Gallery

You might want to check out what Technovation Girls teams have done in the past. Here are the steps to find pitch videos from past Technovation Girls teams:

  • Visit the Technovation App Gallery
  • Choose a topic from the dropdown that matches the category your problem falls in
  • Filter by location, year, and division
  • Click Apply Filters

ChatGPT

Another exciting tool that can help you identify a problem is ChatpGPT, from OpenAI.

You can sign up for a free account that will give you enough free credit to work on your Technovation project.

Click the toggles below to see some examples prompts using ChatGPT for Technovation ideation.

Note that responses are AI-generated, so not necessarily factual or complete. Use of ChatGPT is recommended as another resource of many in the ideation process. It may help generate some some ideas your team can expand on and use as a launchpad for other ideas.

Don’t get discouraged if you haven’t got a solid problem locked down yet. It can take several meetings and discussions to decide on a problem you all care about and want to work together to solve. Listen to past participants in this video!

Introduction

WELCOME TO TECHNOVATION GIRLS!

Through Technovation Girls, you’ll learn how to design and code your own mobile app to solve a problem in your community.

What is code?

Code is the way that people talk to computers, and make computers do different things! Code is everywhere—you probably use things that were made with code multiple times a day without even realizing it. Coding is the act of writing code! Programming means the same thing.

Below are some examples of things made by coding.

whatsapp
Mobile Apps
SIMS game
Games
Animations

Stop and Discuss

What are some things you like that are created with code?

girls discussing

There are lots of fun things to do with code, but did you know that you can also help people with code? Here are some examples.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

The other thing you’ll learn about in Technovation Girls is artificial intelligence. What is artificial intelligence? 

Artificial intelligence or AI is the ability for machines or robots to do tasks normally thought to be done only by humans. Because the human brain is so complex, it has been a difficult problem for computer scientists to solve – making a machine think like a human. But over the past 50 years, much progress has been made in this field of computer science.

Just like code, AI exists all around you! It has become a part of our everyday life, so it’s important for you as a consumer of artificial intelligence to understand how it works and how it affects you. You might just be inspired enough to make AI an integral part of your Technovation project!

Below are some examples of AI in our lives.

self driving car
Self-driving vehicles
Youtube video suggestions
facial recognition
Face recognition with Google Images

Stop and Discuss

Can you think of other examples of AI in your life?

girls discussing

LET'S GET STARTED!

Solving Problems with Technology

  • Learn about features of your mobile phone that can help solve your problem
  • Differentiate between a mobile app and a web app
  • Learn how people solve problems using Artificial Intelligence
  • Be able to recognize examples of AI around you

There are no activities for this lesson.

For your Technovation Girls project, you will create a technology solution, specifically an application that can run on a mobile device. Let’s explore how you can take advantage of the mobile device features to make the best solution possible.

FEATURES OF A MOBILE DEVICE

Mobile apps are programs that run on mobile phones. Mobile apps can take advantage of all the various sensors on phones that allow them to sense external information like location and sound.

Check out some mobile device features with these flip boxes!

Camera, speaker, microphone

Allows you to take pictures, videos, and record sounds
Back

GPS

Shows the physical location of the device
Back

Phone calls, text messages, contacts

Allows you to make phone calls, send text messages, and connect to people
Back

Web Connectivity

Allows you to send and receive information from the web on your device
Back

Storage

Allows you to store preferences, images, and sounds on your device
Back

Acceleromater, Gyroscope

Shows how fast the device is moving in any direction
Back

MOBILE APPS VS WEB APPS

You may have heard the term web app, which is different than a mobile app.  For Technovation Girls, either type of app is acceptable. 

You can create  a mobile app, web app, or progressive web app for your Technovation Girls project. However, it is helpful that you understand the differences and build the most suitable type for your solution.

What are the differences?

Mobile App

  • a program that runs natively on the phone
  • downloaded and installed on the device 
  • can access the phone’s features, such as GPS and camera.
  • platform-specific (iOS or Android) 
  • coded with particular languages to match the operating system.

Web App

  • looks a lot like a mobile app
  • runs in an internet browser
  • not native to a particular device (iOS or Android) 
  • is generally coded with HTML, CSS, Javascript and Python
  • cannot run when offline

Progressive Web App

  • special type of web app that is a hybrid between a mobile app and web app
  • runs in a browser
  • can also be installed on the mobile device like a regular mobile app
  • can run even when user is offline

If you are coding with App Inventor or Thunkable, you will be making a mobile app. You can test and run your mobile apps on both iOS and Android platforms.

WHAT ABOUT ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE?

Artificial intelligence is a powerful technology that can add to your app solution. Although you are not required to use AI in your project, you are encouraged to learn about it, and how you might incorporate it into your project. AI is not appropriate for all solutions, but can be a helpful addition in many cases.

But, what is Artificial Intelligence? To define it, let’s break it down into two words.

Artificial

  • Not real
  • Made by people
  • a copy of something real

Intelligence

  • Using your brain to learn, solve problems, and speak or write

So, one definition could be that AI is something made by people to emulate the human brain by solving problems.

AI can do 4 main things:

Do these 4 criteria sound like things that humans are capable of?

You can think of AI as something that tries to work or think like a human.

SOME EXAMPLES

Toy robots and vacuums use sensors to find their way around
phone with siri asking question
Voice assistants can tell when you say their name and will respond to you when you do.
youtube displayed on a laptop
Netflix and YouTube learn what videos you like in order to suggest other videos to watch.
 
Alexa device on a table
Alexa learns to understand your voice. The more you talk to her, the better she understands what you say.
Google maps displayed on phone
Google Maps and Waze use models of streets to plan directions.
chessboard
IBM’s Deep Blue uses a chessboard model to learn to beat world champion chess players.
man looking at phone
Chatbots like Siri or Google Assistant respond to what people say and can have conversations with humans.
girl touching robot hand
Personal robots are able to read emotions and act like humans.

AI is used to solve all sorts of problems!

Watch these videos to see different advancements made possible with Artificial Intelligence.

QUIZ YOURSELF

Here is a little quiz to check whether you can identify whether a technology is AI or not. User the 4 criteria to help you decide. (understand, learn, use models, interact with humans) For each of the four pairs below, click the button under the technology you think uses AI.

dog being vacuumed
Vacuum
cat riding a roomba
Roomba
auto-assist car parking
SMW I3 Auto-assist park
remote controlled cars racing
Remote control cars
man lifting objects with prosthetic arm
Prosthetic that senses objects
woman dancing with prosthetic leg
Prosthetic that responds to user's movements
spell checker
Spelling/Grammar Checker
predictive text
Text predictor

REFLECTION

As you start to think of possible solutions for your problem, consider these questions:

Could our solution be made without any technology at all? If so, does adding technology make it better?
Could this be a web app or website instead of a mobile app?
Would adding Artificial Intelligence to our app improve our solution?
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REVIEW OF KEY TERMS

  • Mobile App – a program/application that is compiled to run on a phone or other mobile device
  • Web app– a program/application that runs in a browser on any computer or mobile device
  • Sensors – Hardware on your phone that allows it to interact with the world around it
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) – machines/programming that can do tasks normally thought to be done only by humans

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Check out how some past Technovation participants used mobile apps to solve a problem in their community!

 This app teaches young children new words.

This app helps users decide what crops to plant

This app empowers young women to pursue STEM fields through games.

And here are some projects that incorporated AI into their apps.

Maji uses AI to determine real-time water quality and make  information available to users.

This app analyzes bird sounds to predict the health of a lake ecosystem.


This web app helps to predict earthquakes and provide safe escape routes.


Researching Problems

  • Consider aspects of problems you might want to solve
  • Research more about the problems
  • Possibly select a problem to solve for your project

These are the activities for this lesson:

FOCUS ON A PROBLEM

Last week you brainstormed problems and categorized them according to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. Grouping problems might have spawned new ideas or showed relationships between different problems you are considering.

This week, you will delve into one or two problems you might want to work on, in order to consider their scale. The scale of a problem is the size of the problem. Is it big enough or meaningful enough to have true impact?

hand holding camera lens focusing

CONSIDER IMPACT

To consider the impact of solving a problem, let’s consider these elements:

  • Is it a big problem? Does it affect a significant number of people?
  • Has the problem appeared in national or global news?
  • Is there room for innovation? Are there already companies working on the problem? Can you do something more than they are doing?
  • Are there national foundations, non-profits, or startups interested in the problem? 
  • Could you potentially partner with them to work on it?

 

 

 

ACTIVITY 1: RESEARCHING PROBLEMS

Estimated time: 20 minutes

Measure scale and impact of 2 or 3 of your top problems

Fill out the worksheet for each problem, to measure its scale and impact.

Note you can make a copy of the worksheet and edit as needed.
Open worksheet

REFLECTION

Hopefully you have narrowed down your problem to just a few by now. Continue to research these problems to help you decide which one to work on.

What problem are you leaning towards as your problem to solve?
Who else is doing interesting work on this problem?
Why are you excited to solve this problem?
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REVIEW OF KEY TERMS

  • Research – gathering information about a subject
  • Scale – the size of your problem or solution

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

If you are interested in talking and learning from other young people around the world about problems of interest to you, check out the Ultimate Dialogue Adventure from Generation Global. Click on the picture to visit their website.

Hear from other Technovation Girls teams to see how they came up with a problem to solve!

This video clip(5:30 min) from an alumnae panel on ideation could be helpful.

Selecting a Problem

  • Select a problem your team will solve
  • Learn what a problem statement is
  • Write a problem statement for your project

CHOOSING A PROBLEM

You’ve done a lot of brainstorming, researching, and thinking about problems in your community that are worth solving. Hopefully, you have narrowed down the problem to just a few. Or possibly, the team has decided which problem they want to solve. If you still have not decided on a problem, it might help to have team members advocate for a particular problem and explain why they want to work on it.

girls working together

ACTIVITY 1: CHOOSING A PROBLEM

Estimated time: 20 minutes

Decide on which problem to solve

List your top 2 or 3 problems on the worksheet with your team, and make a case for the problem you want to work on. Once everyone has expressed their thoughts, the team should come to a consensus on which problem they wish to solve.

Note you can make a copy of the worksheet and edit as needed.
Open worksheet

Best practices: suggest some websites for teams, help them brainstorm different keywords to find more pertinent information. You can practice doing research as a group for 10-15 minutes to demonstrate effective research

✔️Once complete, you can start Ideation 5

Activity duration: 4-5 hours over the course of 2-3 weeks

Girls working together on laptops

Now that you have an idea for your project, you can start working on your problem statement. A problem statement is a brief piece of writing that explains the problem that your team is addressing. 

Later, you will add your solution, but let’s stick to stating the problem for now.

It’s important to write the problem statement together as a team so that you all agree and remain focused on the problem as you move through the rest of the curriculum together.

Your problem statement should answer 4 key questions:

    1. What is the problem?

    2. Who does the problem affect?

    3. How does the problem affect them?

    4. Why is it important to solve?

Your problem statement will be a key part of your project description in your submission. It will also be useful when you outline and create your pitch video.

EXAMPLE: DISCARDIOUS BY TEAM CHARIS

Here is an example of a problem statement from a past Technovation Girls finalist team. Like their statement, your problem statement will become polished as you do research and build upon your idea (note that this is the original team’s statement -it has not been edited).

Calabar is densely populated and results show that 70% of individuals and businesses there store refuse (trash), 95% use open dumps and 65% dump their refuse into gutters. This effect has led to inefficient waste disposal and an unhygienic business and home environment. Business and homeowners have a tight schedule that prevents them from disposing their waste regularly and there are no frequent visit from waste disposal agencies. 

ACTIVITY 2: PROBLEM STATEMENT

Estimated time: 15 minutes

Write your problem statement

Answer the 4 questions on the worksheet to create a problem statement.

Note you can make a copy of the worksheet and edit as needed.
Open worksheet

REFLECTION

Now that you’ve written your problem statement, you can refer back to it throughout your project.

It will be helpful as you create your business plan, code your app, and write the script for your pitch video.

You can also use it in your project description.

forest and lake reflection

REVIEW OF KEY TERMS

  • Problem Statement –  a brief piece of writing that explains the problem that your team is addressing

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Here are more examples of problem statements from past Technovation teams. You will add your proposed solution once you come up with one!

Hover over the problem statement to view their pitch video.

ACE (AI Care for Elders) Problem Statement

In China, “left-behind elderlies” is a common phenomenon where elderlies in rural areas live alone, with their children working in urban cities. These elders are unable to connect with their families daily, especially in difficult times such as COVID, which exacerbates the feeling of isolation.

ACE (AI Care for Elders) Pitch

Aboat TIme Problem Statement

Bengaluru’s lakes have been exponentially decreasing in quality since the 1980s, leading to lakes being reduced to mere dumping grounds for domestic and industrial wastes or open sewage.
This is a direct consequence of lack of sufficient information about lake health and real time monitoring of water quality.
Lake health can be especially hard to track over a period of time, since measuring water quality and testing chemical levels of the water is tedious and equipment is expensive.

Aboat Time Pitch

Mahila Problem Statement

There is an immense amount of stigma surrounding sexual and menstrual healthcare. This is especially prevalent in India because our ancient religious texts associate periods and intercourse with evil spirits and impurity. This belief has been internalized into Indian society, creating a taboo on conversations about menstrual care. This taboo causes a lot of mental distress for adolescents as they feel isolated while they are going through these changes.

Mahila Pitch

Identifying Solutions

  • Brainstorm solutions to your problem with your team

SOLUTIONS

While you might come up with a completely new solution or technology for your Technovation project, you do not have to start from scratch! You can also:

  • Improve something that already exists
  • Reduce the cost of something that already exists
  • Apply an existing approach to a new situation
person climbing stairs to light bulb

Don’t forget that your Technovation project needs to be a mobile or web app. As you generate ideas, keep that in the back of your mind.

POSSIBLE FEATURES

Collect data and raise awareness

by gathering data from sensors, people, AI, or websites. Sharing data educates users about the problem.

Motivate behavior change

through a reward system, games, or community sharing. Ultimately helps to solve the problem.

Build empathy

to cause your users to have a deeper understanding of the problem and want to take action.

Implement and track

so users take action on the problem and track their actions.

IS TECHNOLOGY THE ANSWER?

Consider the problem: elderly people in the community are lonely and isolated.

Below are some examples of solutions – some with technology, but also some without. Hover over each box to see how technology can (or maybe cannot) help.

Solution

Help connect people in the community who want to volunteer to visit.

How to make it better with technology

Create an app where volunteers can sign up and schedule time with needy seniors in their community for visits.

Solution

Organize outings for seniors.
This can probably be done without technology

Solution

Help seniors keep in touch with family members.

How to make it better with technology

Organize weekly zoom chats with family members so they can talk and stay connected.

Solution

Start a community center for seniors in town.
No real way technology can improve this solution.

Solution

Create an online social group for the elderly.

How to make it better with technology

This could be a Facebook group or an app where seniors could make new friends and chat online with each other.

Solution

Organize a class to teach elderly how to use technology.

How to make it better with technology

The class can help seniors learn how to stay connected with family and others in the community if they know how to use their phone or computer to do so.

Solution

Start a club for young people to visit elderly people.
This can be done without the need for technology.

Solution

Detect mood of seniors to determine if they need a visit.

How to make it better with technology

Build an AI model that detects mood from what they are writing in a diary app. Detecting a sad or down mood could trigger a notification to a volunteer to visit.

As you can see, not all of the solutions you think of will be made better by creating a mobile app or using AI. Talking to elderly people in your community could lead you to a solution that works. For example, some technical solutions may not work if the target users aren’t comfortable using mobile apps or computer programs.

Are you ready to start brainstorming solutions?

elderly woman using smartphone

BRAINSTORMING

Just as you did to identify a problem to solve, you will now brainstorm possible solutions to your problem. You might already have some ideas in mind, but be open to all ideas at this point. 

Don’t forget these tips for good brainstorming:

  • Be sure to capture all ideas, even wild ones!
  • Defer all judgement on other people’s ideas, and on your own!
  • Build off each other’s ideas.
  • Be visual – you can draw instead of writing words.
  • One conversation at a time – don’t cut each other off.
  • Go for as many ideas as you can.
  • Stay focused.

ACTIVITY 1: BRAINSTORMING SOLUTIONS

Estimated time: 30 minutes

Brainstorm ideas as a team

  1. Use paper, a wall with post-it notes, a chalkboard, or an online whiteboard like Jamboard, Ideaboardz.
  2. Write down the problem you are solving so everyone on the team can see it.
  3. Then, write down as many solutions as you can to the problem.
  4. After 10 minutes, review the ideas as a team. Group similar ideas together, or draw lines to link ideas. Talk as a team about the ideas, and choose the top solutions you like.
  5. If necessary, do a second round of brainstorming to generate more ideas. Stop when you have 2-3 good solutions.

ACTIVITY 2: CHOOSING A SOLUTION

Estimated time: 15 minutes

Choose the solution you want to build

Take your top solution ideas and use the worksheet checklist to determine if each solution is innovative, relevant, and uses technology. This can help you to decide which solution to build
Download worksheet

REFLECTION

Hopefully you have 1 or 2 potential solutions you can build for your Technovation project. If not, you can keep generating ideas with your team.

Your idea will probably change as you do this program, you might end up with an app that looks completely different from what you are envisioning now. Don’t worry, this is all a part of the ideation process!

Here are some things to reflect on

tree reflecting in lake
Which solution are you most excited by?
How is your solution innovative?
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ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Another brainstorming technique is called problem mapping or mind mapping. You write the problem in the middle of a large sheet of paper and write down solution ideas around the problem. Connect similar or related solutions to combine them or spark new ideas.

problem mapping example with diabetes

Market Research

  • Learn who your target market is
  • Interview your target market to learn more about them
  • Use target market research findings to improve your idea
  • Research your competitors to learn how to stand out from them
  • Improve your idea based on competitor research

These are the activities for this lesson:

TALK TO YOUR USERS

Now that you have an idea for your project, you probably want to get started building it right away. But wait! Before you get started you have a little more work to do. Just because you think something is a great idea, it doesn’t necessarily mean that other people will think it is or that they will want to use it. 

Before you spend a lot of time and effort building your app, you should make sure that people will actually use it once it is ready

people in meeting

GATHER INFORMATION

About what or whom?

  1. your target market, also known as your users
  2. your competitors, the people or companies making similar apps
girls around computer

Why?

  • to help adjust your final solution
  • so more people will use it
  • make it more successful

Here are some questions you should be able to answer positively:

  • Will people use my product if I build it?
  • Are there enough people who will use my product to justify building it?
  • Will my product solve the problem I think it will?
  • What can I change about my idea to better meet my target market’s needs?

TARGET MARKET

target with arrow

So how do you figure out who your target market is? Start by thinking about who is affected by the problem you are solving.

Maybe you are solving a problem for teenage girls, elderly people, parents or someone else in your community.

If you get stuck, review your work from Week 1, Understanding your Community to recall who your users will be.

Can you identify the target market for these products? Click on the ? to reveal.

Barbie doll

Target Market

Children aged 3-12

meow mix cat food bag

Target Market

People who own cats

whatsapp chat window

Target Market

People who own smartphones

START YOUR USER RESEARCH

One excellent method for user research is is to interview people who you think will use your product.

To perform an interview, ask a series of questions.

Best option – in person

Better option – by phone or video call

Good option – email

It helps to hear their voice and see their reaction to your questions.

two women talking

There are 2 different types of questions that you should ask: 

  1. About the problem you want to solve
    – does the target market have they problem you think they have?

  2. About the product you want to build
    – will they use your product?
    – does your product solve the problem you are trying to address?

EXAMPLE QUESTIONS

Questions about the problem

  • Do you currently have this problem?
  • What do you do now to alleviate the problem?
  • Are you looking for a better or easier solution?

Questions about the product

  • Would you use this product if I made it?
  • Which features are the most important?
  • Would you pay for this product? How much? Or if “No”, why?
  • Does this remind you of something else that already exists?

INTERVIEW EXPERTS

In addition to your target market, you should also reach out to experts on the problem to help you understand the problem better. For example, if your project is about clean water, you could interview a local environment official or a non-governmental organization (NGO) who studies this issue. 

In addition to your target market, you should also reach out to experts on the problem to help you understand the problem better. For example, if your project is about clean water, you could interview a local environment official or a non-governmental organization (NGO) who studies this issue. 

female scientist
Gathering answers to your questions will help you make sure that you are creating the best product possible. 

After each interview you should ask yourself, “How can I change my ideas based on what I just learned?”

SURVEYS

Surveys are a way to get answers from a lot of people quickly. In addition to your user interviews, you should also use surveys to get information.

There are 2 types of surveys you can use:

So, what do you ask in a survey? 

Just like your interviews, you should ask questions about both the problem and the solution.

But, you want to make the results easy to interpret. Instead of open-ended questions, use multiple-choice or scale questions. 

 

This saves time for the people taking the survey and will be easier for you to analyze.

 

 

Try to get AT LEAST 15 responses to your survey.

 

Here are some examples for each type of question.

TECHNOVATION EXAMPLES

Below are examples of survey questions from past Technovation teams. Click the blue triangles on the left to read them.

Nutrie is a mobile app focusing on the health of Brazilian children, ages 6-12.
nutrie logo
  • My child is overweight or obese. (Yes, No)
  • I know families whose children are overweight or obese. (Yes, No)
  • I have talked to my children about childhood obesity. (Yes, No)
  • To your family, what is more difficult when it comes to healthy habits?
    • Avoiding candies, fried foods and canned foods
    • Having a selective taste for fruits and vegetables
    • Understanding the nutritional table of products
  • What importance would each of these features have for you and your child within our app? (1 – a little, 5 – a lot)
    • Quizzes about nutrition
    • A healthy habits checklist
    • An exclusive section for parents to check their child’s progress
    • Suggestions for parents to encourage their children’s healthy habits

MajiMaji is an app that links water suppliers to customers.


MajiMajji logo, water droplets
  • How often per week don’t you have access to piped water?
    • Unpredictable
    • 3-4 times a week
    • 1-2 times a week
    • Daily
  • When there is a water shortage in your area, what other means do you use to acquire the water?
    • Buy water from carts/wheelbarrows
    • Go to store water-access points (e.g. tank) and buy water physically
    • Water delivery service
    • Borehole
    • Use stored water
    • Stay with a friend who has water
  • Would you pay for the services our app provides? (Yes, No)
  • If a water delivery service existed, would you use it? (Yes, No, Maybe)

cultivAte raises user awareness about nutrition and environmental impact of ingredients in foods they buy.


cultivate logo
  • Do you read food labels when you shop?
    • Yes, often
    • No, never
    • Yes, sometimes
    • I don’t know
  • I read food labels when I shop because:
    • Allergies
    • Trying to lose weight
    • Young family members
    • On a specific diet
    • Religious restrictions
    • Sustainability choices
  • Do you think about how your diet affects the environment? (Yes, No)
  • I am concerned about what goes into my body and daily nutrition. (0 – not at all, 10 – very much)

SURVEY ANALYSIS

Once you get your survey results, you need to analyze them.

 

Did a majority of respondents say they would use your product?

 

What was the most common answer to each question?

 

Below are examples of what each team found from their surveys. Click the blue triangles on the left to read what they found.

Nutrie is a mobile app focusing on the health of Brazilian children, ages 6-12.


nutrie logo
  • 43 of 110 respondents said the hardest part of maintaining a healthy diet for children was convincing them to avoid candy, fried food, and canned food. 
  • Another 25 of 100 said their kids have a selective taste for fruits and vegetables.
  • 97.2% of respondents said they would download the app.
  • The most popular feature was suggestions for parents to encourage their children to develop health habits, followed by a healthy habits checklist.

MajiMaji is an app that links water suppliers to customers.


MajiMajji logo, water droplets
  • 54.9% of respondents are without access to piped water daily.
  • 21.4% of respondents have unpredictable access to piped water.
  • 82.5% of respondents would pay for the services the app provides.
  • 61.9% of respondents would use a water delivery app.
  • 26.9% would maybe use a water delivery app.
  • So, a majority of people surveyed need the app and would use and pay for the app.

cultivAte raises user awareness about nutrition and environmental impact of ingredients in foods they buy.


cultivate logo
  • 92% of respondents reported they read food ingredients when shopping, for various reasons, with the top being weight loss, allergies, and sustainability concerns. 
  • More than 60% of respondents said their concern about what goes into their bodies was 5 or higher.
  • 57.9% of respondents noted they think about how their diet affects the environment.

ACTIVITY 1: USER RESEARCH

Estimated time: 90 minutes
(including interviews)

Learn about your target market

Follow the worksheet instructions to:
  • Develop interview questions and then interview at least 2 people about your idea.
  • Develop survey questions and a plan to distribute the surveys.
Note you can make a copy of the worksheet and edit as needed.
Open worksheet

Thinking ahead to your business plan or user adoption plan, you can turn your survey information into an infographic (a visual representation of data). 

Some online tools to explore:

COMPETITOR RESEARCH

two female basketball players on court

Competitor research will help you understand what type of companies already exist that are solving the same problem as you. You want your target market to use your product instead of using something else. In order to get them to use your app, you will have to  offer a unique, cheaper, or better alternative to what already exists.

 

Remember – your competitor might not be an app or it might not even use technology!

Can you guess the competitors for these products? Hover over each flip card to reveal some competitors.

instagram logo

Instagram

Competitors

Facebook, Snapchat
amazon kindle device

Kindle

Competitors

Books, libraries,
magazines
uber app

Uber

Competitors

Taxis, buses,
public transport,
bike sharing

COMPETITOR ANALYSIS

Here are some questions that you can answer with your competitor analysis. 

How does their solution work?

What problem does it solve?

Who is their target market?

What is special about their solution?

What can you learn from their solution?

What is missing from their solution that you can include in yours?

What isn’t working?

ACTIVITY 2: Competitor Research

Estimated time: 60 minutes

Follow the instructions in the worksheet

  • Find at least 3 other companies or organizations who are solving your problem.
  • Find out more information and compare their features to your solution.
Download worksheet

REFLECTION

Congratulations on doing your competitor and user research!

 

It is okay to change your idea based on what you’ve learned. As you develop your product, continue researching to ensure you are making the best product possible! Here are some questions to ask yourselves:

reflection on beach
How will you change your idea based on what you learned from your users?
How will you stand out from your competitors?
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REVIEW OF KEY TERMS

  • Target market – the people who will use your product
  • Competitor Research – gathering information about the people or companies making things similar to your product
  • Survey – asking a group of people questions either with paper or an online form

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Learn how other Technovation Girls did user research for their projects!

Technovation alumnae discuss how they connected with end users in this video clip(5:30 min).

Minimum Viable Product

  • Learn what a minimum viable product is and why it is important
  • Choose the most important features of your project to build first

These are the activities for this lesson:

MVP

Now that you have an idea for your project and a problem statement, you might want to start building right away. But hold on! You can save a lot of time by planning.

Your project should be a minimum viable product. A minimum viable product (MVP) is a product, in this case your app, that has just enough features to get the job done and can be tested with users so that improvements can be made later.

It is better to create a prototype that does one or two things really well, than to try to create something that can do everything. 

prototype example

Here is an example. Imagine your friend tells you that she always wakes up late and is late to school. You create an app for her that has a bunch of cool features.

Start simple! You don’t need to build everything right away!

PRIORITIZE

Creating a solution that does just one or two things really well will help you solve your problem and create something that your users like.

You only have a few weeks to make your project for Technovation Girls, so it is important to use that time wisely. You need to prioritize different features of your project, which means to order them from most important to least important.

Then, work on the most important features first. Get them working really well, and, if you have time, add more features. These will be your future features.

priorities list

WHICH FEATURES ARE MOST IMPORTANT?

You might have a long list of features you want your app to do. 

Start by listing all the features you want in your app

Which of these features really solves the problem?

Which features were requested by our users?

  • Review your problem statement from Unit 2
  • Review your user research from Unit 3
  • Ask your target audience to weigh in

ACTIVITY: PLAN YOUR MVP

Estimated time: 30 minutes

Prioritize your app features

Follow the instructions in the workhseet to:
  1. Brainstorm a list of features for your project.
  2. Break down big ideas to smaller features.
  3. Prioritize those features to focus on first 2-3 for your project.
Note: You can make a copy of the worksheet and edit as needed.
Open worksheet

REFLECTION

Your MVP is just your first prototype.

You can always iterate on it to make it better, even after the Technovation Girls season is over!

ball with reflection of houses in it
Did you and your team struggle to prioritize the best features for your project? Why or why not?
How did you compromise on your favorite features versus the best features to solve your problem?
Don't forget to get user feedback on your priority list!
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REVIEW OF KEY TERMS

  • Prioritizing – figuring out what the most important parts of your product are, and working on those first
  • Minimum Viable Product (MVP) – a product that has just enough features to get the job done and test with users so that improvements can be made later
  • Future Features – features that may be added once the first prototype of your product is finished

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Want more information about MVPs? Check out this great article from adc Calculator!

And learn how past Technovation participants Meghana and Saanvi decided on their MVP for their project in the video below. (3 minute clip of longer video)

Paper Prototypes

  • Learn about standard user interface practices
  • Create a paper prototype of your app

These are the activities for this lesson:

PROTOTYPING

Now that you have an idea for your minimum viable product, it’s time to think about what your project will look like and sketch out some ideas.

A prototype is an early model of something.

App developers generally make a paper prototype of their app before they start coding. 

A paper prototype is a hand-drawn representation of what the user interface of your app will look like. It typically includes drawings of each screen in your app, depicting different states.

paper prototype of app screens

WHY PROTOTYPE?

Learn how other Technovation Girls teams created paper and digital prototypes in this video!

PROTOTYPE ELEMENTS

Keep these things in mind as you start your paper prototype. Hover over each card to learn more.

Users

Users

Keep the user at the forefront of your design! The app should be simple, and easy to use.

Device Types

Device Types

How will your app look on an iPhone vs Android?
Phone vs tablet?

Accessibility

Accessibility

Keep accessibility in mind for the 15% of the world's population who have some sort of disability. Click here to learn more.

Consistency

Consistency

Make your screen layouts the same so your user knows what to expect between screens.

USER INTERFACE

Making your prototype is all about how the user interacts with your app. The term for this is the User Interface or UI. It includes all the elements like buttons, textboxes, and sliders that allow the user to use your app.

Another term for designing digital products is User Experience or UX.  Each one is explained below.

User Interface

How users interact with your app. It includes all the elements like buttons, text boxes, and sliders that allow the user to use your app.
UI design focuses on making your app visually appealing, intuitive, and easy to use.

User Experience

How users experience your app. It includes UI, but is more about the emotions, attitudes and behavior of users.

UX design is all about the user's needs and goals, and enhancing their overall experience.

USER INTERFACE FEATURES

Below are some of the key parts of a user interface for a mobile app

ACTIVITY 1: RESEARCHING PROBLEMS

Estimated time: 20 minutes

Measure scale and impact of 2 or 3 of your top problems

Fill out the worksheet for each problem, to measure its scale and impact.

Note you can make a copy of the worksheet and edit as needed.
Open worksheet

REFLECTION

Hopefully you have narrowed down your problem to just a few by now. Continue to research these problems to help you decide which one to work on.

What problem are you leaning towards as your problem to solve?
Who else is doing interesting work on this problem?
Why are you excited to solve this problem?
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REVIEW OF KEY TERMS

  • Research – gathering information about a subject
  • Scale – the size of your problem or solution

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

If you are interested in talking and learning from other young people around the world about problems of interest to you, check out the Ultimate Dialogue Adventure from Generation Global. Click on the picture to visit their website.

Hear from other Technovation Girls teams to see how they came up with a problem to solve!

This video clip(5:30 min) from an alumnae panel on ideation could be helpful.