Planning a Planner, Part III September 17, 2015 08:00

Are you guys getting excited about the release of our planner?!  It's almost officially fall, which means it's almost time for stores to go crazy over Christmas and completely skip the other upcoming holidays, which means that it's close to time to get in gear and get a planner for 2016 (what else are you going to record all your good intentions for New Year's resolutions in?) Ok, so in the first blog post in this series, we talked about how we came up with our initial idea to create a planner, and in the second post, we went more in depth about the process of coming up with a layout.  Today, we're going to fill you guys in on the secret of how we made sure the public would fall in love with our planner as much as we had.  

To test our ideas, we put together a 2-month version of our planner and invited 16 people to participate in a focus group, using the planner for the full 2 months, and then providing feedback.  We thought long and hard about who should be included in the focus group.  We wanted to reach out to people that we knew, because we felt that we would have a better chance of getting feedback from people we could trust to give honest answers, whereas if we asked people that we didn't know, they could disappear and we couldn't hold them to anything.  But, that didn't stop us from considering everyone from a complete list of people that we knew.  We listed out every single female we knew (because in truth, women are the target audience for a planner, but more on this later).  We listed Facebook friends, Instagram followers, old high school friends we had lost touch with, college buddies, distant relatives, etc.  We sat down at Joule, one of our favorite spots in Raleigh, and went through every single person.  We noted if we knew if they currently used a planner, if they used an electronic calendar, their age, their location, their profession(s), their marital status, their number of children, and narrowed down our list to get a good cross section of different people.  At this point, word had also gotten out about our project and we had people approaching us to volunteer to use the planner, including 2 males.  We were ecstatic to have a male demographic in our focus group.  One of our main goals is versatility, so we wanted this planner to be equally as appealing to men as it is to women, even though we were aware that purchasers would be majority women.

We cut a LOT of people, including close friends (sorry guys - but you know we were being unbiased and choosing who we thought would give us the best variety of results!)  We reached out to our final list, and had a few people tell us no, they preferred their current method of organization and didn't want to veer from that (fair enough).  In the end, our focus group consisted of:

  • the 2 of us - of course we were going to test our own product!
  • 2 males, 1 with kids and a full time job, the other with a job in sales at a major downtown company
  • a single (but going on lots of dates - i'm still looking at you, Zach Boychuck) full time engineer who does floral arrangements for weddings on the side
  • a single full time architect in a serious relationship with lots of extra curriculars
  • a full time employee with the City of Raleigh who runs a very successful photography business (and a husband) on the side
  • a former Miss Virginia, now married with a full time job and side job
  • a busy New York City architect balancing work and social life
  • a full time college student 
  • a married mom who works from home and blogs on the side
  • a stay at home mom with triplets(!!!)
  • a married teacher in Texas with a jewelry design business on the side, with a child in high school and another in college
  • a working mom with 2 jobs, 1 husband, 3 dogs and 2 boys with plenty of extra curriculars
  • a full time working mom of 4 grown children who have children of their own
  • a married full time lobbyist with a baby on the way
  • a busy wife with 2 jobs and in the midst of house hunting
  • a full time nurse with a 2 year old who had just moved to Ohio with her husband
  • a full time wife and web developer at a prestigious state university

All of these people agreed to use our planner for 2 months (May-June), although some expressed concern about going back to paper when they were currently using electronic calendars for all of their planning.  We wanted candid feedback from all of them, to see how/ if each person used the planner, and welcomed the fact that some used electronic calendars. We really wanted to see how our planner was accepted and used compared to each person's norm.  At the end of the 2 month trial, each person was to send back comments, answers to specific questions we had laid out about the design of the planner, and either the hard copy itself, or scans of month and week layouts, so we could see how each was used.  So, we packaged them all up, sent them out, then crossed our fingers!


We gave multiple suggestions and examples for how the planner could be used.  The layout is not typical, and so can be used any number of ways.  We checked in periodically and made ourselves available for questions or comments.  Roughly 3 months later, we had received back most of the question responses paired with scans or the physical planner.  We met and for hours and looked at each planner, how it was used, if certain portions of it were used, if spaces we had created appeared to be undersized or extraneous, and what consistencies we found from person to person.  We went in to this meeting after having used the planner ourselves as well, and truthfully, we both loved it.  We weren't sure how we could make it any better or what changes would really be beneficial.  I'm 100% sure that we were too invested in it to be able to step back and see the flaws, and so the focus group responses were absolutely invaluable.  We made a ton of changes, and we are pretty excited about where we landed.  Next week, we'll give you a sneak peek at what's in store for the UPstudio 2016 planner!!!