Doing the ‘Mom Test’

I fist heard about the  “Mom Test” when I did a an online class on user research methods by Julie Blitzer. At first I wasn’t entirely sure about what this ‘Mom Test’ involved. I wondered whether the test was about making sure one’s mum is happy with the product or idea. Is it about thinking about your mum all the time?

This is what I’ve learned about the “Mom Test” since then:

  1. Your mum’s opinion matters – The main idea behind “The Mom Test” is that entrepreneurs, developers and designers think constantly about their mothers’ reactions – real or imagined – in relation to the things they’re building. Don’t take this too literally though! It’s about making sure that a potential user of your product – who might not be super technology savvy – does ‘get’ your product and the benefit(s) that it brings. In other words: keep it simple!
  2. Three core criteria for the ‘Mom Test’ – Flipboard co-founder Mike McCue talks about the following three criteria for a product to pass the Mom Test: (1) understanding, (2) desire and (3) ability. It’s about your user understanding what your product is about, being able to use it but also wanting to use it. McCue’s point is that you shouldn’t need any kind of fancy features to make a user want to use your product.
  3. Asking good questions and listening, listening, listening – Entrepreneur and startup adviser Rob Fitzpatrick uses the Mom Test in the context of asking the right questions and listening to what people have to say. His argument is that your mum will – by definition – like your idea or the product that you’ve made. She’s your mum, of course she’s going to like your product! Fitzpatrick’s version of the Mom Test is therefore much more in the vein of not asking users’ for their opinions on your product but having more of an open conversation instead. I’ve learned that one of the biggest mistakes one can make with user interviews is to ask directed questions or asking users for a direct opinion on your product or idea. I believe it can be much more valuable to let users think out loud, to ask them about their needs or problems.
  4. If not your mum, than any other persona – I can imagine that some people might say that you don’t want to develop with your mum in mind as the end-user and that your actual target audience has very specific needs or is actually quite tech savvy. To those people I would say: replace your mum with the actual personas that you’re aiming at. Do you think that Joe or Katy will understand this product idea? Would they be able to use it, would they want to use it? It’s very easy to almost forget about the personas which you’re building for and their problems that you’re trying to address. Asking yourself the questions that are part of the Mom Test should help in keeping you focused on your main product goals.

Main learning point: I learned that the the key principle underpinning the Mom Test is that, in essence, any user should understand your product, be able to use it and want to use it. I believe that this principle should play an important role throughout the end-to-end product development process. Whether you apply the questions that underpin the Mom Test to your mum or to the actual user persona that you’re building a product for, doing this test will in my view help you to keep focus throughout the product lifecycle.

Related links for further learning:


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