Who would have thought that a poem from 1902 could contain the recipe for good UX (User Experience). It sounds impossible but this is just what Rudyard Kipling did in his 1902 story called “The Elephant’s Child” from the story book “Just So Stories”.
Joseph Rudyard Kipling was an English journalist, short-story writer, poet, and novelist. He was born in India, which inspired much of his work. “Just So Stories” – one of the books he is best know for, contains bedtime stories.
One of these bedtime stories “The Elephant’s Child” is about how elephants got their trunk and part of it reads …
I Keep six honest serving-men: (They taught me all I knew) Their names are What and Where and When And How and Why and Who.
This poem lists a lot of the key questions any UX project should start by answering. It is very common to hear and read of esoteric ways of making sure the end user’s needs are met. Instead Kipling, in a single line in a poem managed to list down the 6 key questions to ask ourselves.
- What is our strategy?
- What is our value proposition?
- What triggers the end user?
- What does the end user really need?
- What should we design?
- What is the big picture vision?
- What are the project’s S.M.A.R.T goals?
Where will the end user consume the product/service?
- When does it need to be ready by?
- When does the end user need it?
- How do we validate the business model?
- How do we make it intuitive for the user?
- Why are we doing it this way?
- Who are the main personas?
- Who are our competitors?
Here is Kipling’s poem in full.
I Keep six honest serving-men:
(They taught me all I knew)
Their names are What and Where and When
And How and Why and Who.
I send them over land and sea,
I send them east and west;
But after they have worked for me,
I give them all a rest.
I let them rest from nine till five.
For I am busy then,
As well as breakfast, lunch, and tea,
For they are hungry men:
But different folk have different views:
I know a person small–
She keeps ten million serving-men,
Who get no rest at all!
She sends ’em abroad on her own affairs,
From the second she opens her eyes–
One million Hows, two million Wheres,
And seven million Whys!
If you’re about to embark on a new a project – start first by answering the questions to “What and Where and When And How and Why and Who”.