Thursday, October 30, 2008

Designing the product.

People interact with products on two levels: physical and emotional. The physical part is called “ergonomics” - what feels good to people. Some designers call the emotional level "psychonomics"- what makes people feel good. The baseline of good design is a perfect balance between the two. Form and function are developed together and are intertwined. A design that stands the test of time is done as efficiently as possible and has nothing more than it needs to do the job.

Charles and Ray Eames's molded-plywood chair of the 1940s is a perfect example. The wood was molded into flexible shapes that perfectly conformed to the body and absorbed shock when the sitter moved. Herman Miller's Aeron chair is descended from that Eames chair but it’s more concerned with performance - action, movement, and mobility. Like the Eames chair, the Aeron is pared down mechanically to exactly what's necessary and its cushion uses the least amount of material needed to achieve comfort. That’s the real art and skill of a designer: to achieve elegance in design with the highest degree of efficiency. Ultimately, any well-designed product or experience acknowledges the user. It's that respect for the user that makes a design great. That's true for a table, a chair, a book, a film or a Web site.

Designing a product is not so much about the end product as it’s about the process of use. This is especially true for Web design, which isn’t dealing with an immutable, static object. Instead, the focus is on designing sequential, ongoing activities - creating a series of linked interactions and experiences.

Design guidelines.

- Design from the outside in. Make the customer’s use of the product, not the technology, central to all product development. Ask, “How do our customers want to deal with us?”

- Create an intuitive product. No one has to read a toaster manual.

- Get physical fast. Prototyping provides opportunities for a concept to be visualized. It offers quick feedback from both users and investors. Fast prototyping squeezes time out of the product development cycle.

- Design products that can be produced efficiently using as few parts and as many standard parts as possible. Manufacturing criteria are as important to product success as ergonomics, aesthetics and function. Always keep quality, cost and delivery parameters in mind.

- Create a product improvement roadmap which plans to incorporate changes based on customer interactions.

- Surprise the user. Always build in something extra. Delivering more than the customer buys creates product loyalty and increases the chance of creating a truly “hot” product.

- Don’t delay a release in order to add ten more killer features in another six weeks. Ship it - chances are it’s good enough as it is. You can always improve it later.

Once you’ve figured out who the customer is and incorporated their needs into the design of your product or service, the next step is to make yourself known.

No comments: