I Hate Honeydew Melon: A Lesson In Customer Validation

Mike Swift

Mike Swift

Oct 3, 20122 min read

During breakfast today I was reminded of one of the most common pitfalls of root causing (think user testing, customer validation, etc). I ordered this thing called "The Tutti Frutti Special", which is essentially a roll that's cut in half with an egg on top and a bunch of fresh fruit on the other side of the plate. For the unimaginative, here's a picture.

"The Tutti Frutti Special"

I wasn't really all that hungry to begin with, but I managed to get the half with the egg down and picked at the other half until my fullness got the best of me and I gave up. Eventually, the waitress came back to ask if I was done. She picked up the plate to take it away and said,

"Wow you must really like honeydew, you barely touched any of the other fruit".

Here's the thing. I hate honeydew melon.

It's the worst fruit – way too watery and has barely any taste. I've never enjoyed it and I probably never will. But totally disregarding my feelings for Honeydew Melon, she was right. I'd eaten every bit of honeydew melon on my plate. The part she was wrong about was the essential "why?" that everyone seems to overlook when they start searching for causality.

The real reason the melon was gone was that originally I intended to eat all the fruit on my plate. I thought that by eating the melon first, I would be able to enjoy the rest of my meal without the awful interruption of honeydew. Little did I know, I'd be full way before then anyway.

This story is a great example of why you should always ask "why?" when you perform user tests, do customer validation, or just want to understand why people behave the way they do. Simply observing someone is never enough. Actions can lie, even if they seem straight forward. The only way to truly understand your users is to find out why they made the choices they did. So ask.