Designers should be integrated throughout all product planning and development phases. Design and designers are essential in creating any product – whether it is software, a physical product, a website, or a mobile app – if it is to be successful in the marketplace. Many business leaders, however, don’t fully understand the fact that designers are the key to designing products that create desirability, usability, and marketability.
Learning the hard way
Even companies with a solid reputation for effective design have occasionally overlooked this reality. For example, in 2009 Google released Wave, an online platform intended to improve project collaboration. Do you remember being excited to get an invitation to use Wave? I know I was.
Unfortunately, the app’s developers seemed to have forgotten about the user experience. It was so overloaded with features that no one knew what to do with the tool. From a design perspective, it was a disaster. However, Google learned from this experience: Wave was just one iteration in one of Google’s many successful apps that are available today.
Another hard lesson comes from Apple. In 1993, prior to today’s successful Apple TV, the company attempted to produce computer/TV hybrid called the Macintosh TV. The problem was the product was neither a well-functioning computer nor a proper usable television. Macintosh TV had a bit of an identity crisis. Due to its poor usability and unattractive design, Apple produced only 10,000 units. But even a seemingly infallible company like Apple can learn from its mistakes, and it remains one of the most influential tech companies to date.
These are perfect examples of a “build everything on the checklist” approach, but they also show how product teams can fail to understand the real needs of the user. Wave and Macintosh TV created excitement, but without the insight that comes from thorough user research, both products failed to deliver true value to customers. It is possible that Google and Apple used designers from the beginning, but these products felt like experiments.
In short, having designers deeply involved from the beginning of the creation process is essential to uncovering what users want to do, why they would use your product, and how they would best use it.
The new era of modern designers
Designers are not simply “pixel pushers”—today’s designers are problem solvers, or design thinkers. It is more important than ever for designers to be involved from the earliest stages of product planning. Here are some of the advantages designers will bring to your product development team:
- They understand the basics of human psychology, especially how people perceive and interact with their surroundings and how that should influence product design
- They make design decisions based on proven UX methods (research to usability analysis)
- Designers involve stakeholders like CIOs, product managers, developers, other designers, sales and marketing teams, and end users from the beginning to collect feedback
- They understand that collaborating in a physically creative and functional place will have a positive impact on successfully designing a product
- They do not believe in designing the perfect product on the first try, but learn from failing early and often
- Designers are listeners. They collect good and bad feedback to iterate as necessary to create the best product design and experience possible
- They spend time with end users to identify root causes
- Designers constantly reinvent themselves. They are always learning and are never satisfied with their current skill set
- They take care of their clients’ needs directly rather than through a manager
- They do not fixate on popular design trends, but instead base product design on user needs and research
Innovate, not stagnate
Today’s businesses are increasingly investing in designers early in the product creation process. As more products come into the market, new technologies and constantly shifting customer demands force businesses to ask themselves: How do we visually stand out among the crowd? How do we solve usability problems? Does our product’s user experience benefit the user?
The overabundance of unusable or difficult-to-use products in today’s world shows that designers are needed more than ever. The value of good design is the increased probability of success. Investing in designers for the future of your business will create innovation and help you become a market leader.
It’s easy to underestimate the importance of hiring designers—after all, you may be thinking, designers aren’t exactly going to save the world. But they will make your products look and feel great to your customers—and a well-designed product could certainly contribute to saving the world! To gain the full value of great design, you need great designers.
What is your opinion on value of designers? At what stage should designers get involved? Share your thoughts in the comments; I would love to hear your perspective.
For more insight on effective product design and the customer experience, see 4 Reasons To Transform Products Into Connected Experiences And Outcomes.