$1000 challenge: Identifying user goals

It has been some time since the last update on my $1000 challenge.

Since the thenI moved to Japan and got married (twice), among other things. Apparently this required more time than I thought. However, even though I’m way behind schedule now, let the challenge continue!

Identifying core users

After I had published the last article in this series, Juhani Lehtimäki suggested on Google+:

“Have you tried identifying core user goals instead of jumping directly to features. A user centered approach not only usually lead into better feature set but also helps you a lot on the way as a set of test cases.

If you identify what users want to do with your app and what is the priority of your those goals you can extract the feature set you actually need to support them and design your app to very easy to use. You can also later on run usability tests based on the user goals either by simulating the users yourself or putting the prototype in front of others.”

My first reaction was “so much work, I don’t want to do this.”

But of course Juhani was right and so I started to take a look at the people that I would like to use my app.  So I jumped to my whiteboard and asked myself the question “Who would want to use a Voice Recorder?” over and over again. After a couple of days, I had created an inelegant but purpose serving mindmap.


Next I searched for contact points to the groups I had identified. For that I used Reddit, Google+ and Facebook. In total I wrote to 8 subreddits, 6 Facebook groups and 15 Google+ groups. I introduced myself and my project and asked for feedback.

Most of the groups were very open and helpful, with threads reaching up to 29 comments.

I approached the different groups with in general identical messages. Here’s the one I posted to the /r/makinghiphop subreddit:

“Hello hip hop makers,

some years ago I developed a voice recorder app for Android devices. Since I published it, it has been downloaded a bit more than a million times. However, I haven’t worked on it for a long time and therefore it is pretty outdated right now.

Why I’m writing here now is because I want to build a new voice recorder now and I want to do it right. Therefore, since you are creating hip hop and therefore know what it needs to create great sounds, I want to ask you: What features you would like a voice recorder app to have?

I would be glad if you would give me some feedback and inspiration. In case this post is inappropriate, I’d like to apologize.

Thanks a lot, Johannes”

For every reply I received I would thank the user and make sure that I really understood what they were writing. This way on the one hand I gave them the feeling that I wasn’t some spam bot and was actually listening to what they had to say and on the other hand gained more interactions and input.

As you can see, I made the mistake of explicitly asking for features instead of more general use cases. I was, however, still able to identify user goals against which I will be able to test later on.

Core user goals

I identified two user groups, which both have three main goals:

Group 1 wants to use a voice recorder app like a dictating machine and take voice notes. These people are Journalists, Authors, Comedians and the like. I also belong to this group.

The three main goals of this group are:

  1. Record audio fast. With fast, I mean fast as in “little interaction from app start to recording start”.
  2. Access audio conveniently. This is not limited to the Android device.
  3. Organize audio.

Group 2 consists of music makers like singers, producers, composer or rapper.

This group’s main goals are:

  1. Create high quality recordings.
  2. Edit audio.
  3. Include existing audio into new recordings (overdubbing).

If you have followed this series, you already know that the current feature set and paper prototype are targeted mostly to the first user group. Probably because I belong to this group and can hence identify its needs.

Therefore, things need to be changed.

Extended feature set

As mentioned above, I asked the user groups directly for features. This allowed me to identify new feature requests and weigh them by popularity. Here are the top features that were requested:

  1. Overdubbing or multitrack recording: 12 votes (this feature belongs to the second group’s third goal)
  2. Tags: 7 votes (Group 1, goal 3)
  3. .WAV-Format: 7 votes (Group 2, goal 1)
  4. Background noise filter: 7 votes (Group 2, goal 2)
  5. Cut/trim editor: 7 votes (Group 2, goal 2)
  6. Equalizer: 7 votes (Group 2, goal 2)
  7. MP3-Format: 6 votes (Group 2, goal 1)
  8. Compressor: 6 votes (Group 2, goal 2)
  9. Reverberation: 5 votes (Group 2, goal 2)
  10. Autosync with Dropbox: 5 votes (Group 1, goal 2)
  11. Autosync with Google drive: 5 votes(Group 1, goal 2)

The only features of this list I had planned up to this point are the ones highlighted in bold green. The total list goes on much longer, 69 features were requested in total.


Currently my tendency is to include many of the above features as premium functionality. This allows me a) to monetize on the features that are more tailored towards a professional audience  and b) to release a basic app and gradually add new features.

In hindsight I am very pleased with the process described here and its results. Not only do I now understand my potential users better, but I already made contact with them, with some also stating their willingness to buy the app, once finished (which is not my intention, it will be free).

For the next article I am thinking about writing about application architecture. If you think that’s a good idea and you want to read a small discussion about clean architecture on Android, please leave a comment below.


  1. Great follow up article on the topic. Can’t wait to read the next one. Your posts about Japan are awesome, too :D keep it up!

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