Hozefa Ayyajiwala

2:53 PM, 17th Mar 2018

What users want?

Series: Design which Matters — Part 2 of 5

In Part 1 — We elucidated the importance of design and markets, and how organisations need to embrace and practice design. We also highlighted a 5c construct to create a process and system to apply effective design.

Now we start decoding the 5c construct — Corroborative, Consistent, Collaborative, Cohesive and Care.

In this article, we will be decoding the first of the 5c’s — Corroboration.

Realising peoples latent need and designing solutions which make them act on that need.

“People ignore design that ignores people.” — F Chimero

a. How to look?

Great innovation hides in plain sight, building efficiency or value in a behaviour which is most natural to users also creates a great market opportunity. As it improves their daily grain of life and is a perpetual action which the masses invest in.

Whether it be Apple’s multitouch, Lego’s bricks, or Gillette’s rotating head what makes a product truly scalable is the simplicity of its interaction. Designed by understanding the deep inherent anxieties and motivations of users, pointing towards a need, and designing solutions which make the consumers act on that need.

Apple’s entire growth post-2007 can simply be attributed to one single element of design which is inherent to humans — Touch. It made one of the most complex environments i.e. computing, easily comfortable for all, and in the process created a parallel economy structure through smartphones.

Good design is obvious, but great design is invisible. Therefore great designers stem from the ability to observe the innately mundane behaviours of people and are able to interpret it better.

If we observe deeply, the most mundane human tasks, we realise value in their behaviours and factors affecting such outcomes — Why do Indian mothers always ask what we had for lunch? Why do we find value in crowds thronging for festivals and bazaars? Why do people always carry mobile, wallet and keys with them? Why do spectacles always need to be adjusted and cleaned? Why is there a particular place of gravity in the house where we keep our stuff every time we enter?

Great design stems from the ability to observe the innately mundane behaviours of people

The answers to the above questions won’t come from asking people but by observing, these are so naturally ingrained in peoples lives, that the behaviours just take over and people don’t necessarily know why they behave in a certain way. You have to deep dive into their history, culture, beliefs, social patterns, natural surroundings and its subsequent utility. The idea is to figure the context leading to the behaviour and what meaning does it hold in the eyes of the user.

b. How to resonate?

Even after getting an insight, it is fairly difficult to find a solution which gets a toehold into what the consumers really want. You realise a pattern which points to a need, but the willingness to act on the need is important. Therefore the solution has to create a want.

Observation gives a factual knowledge that the consumer behaves in a certain way, interpretation of the same can be generally biased from personal experiences. This proves harmful to really get into the consumer’s shoes.

It’s important therefore that we prototype, to see how the consumer responds, and understand the gaps in our interpretation, and then iterate to get to a solution which identifies with the user need.

This prototyping needs to be fast and basic, it should be given only as much effort as to generate useful feedback. As little as needed for someone to understand the interaction and respond.

“Observation gives a factual knowledge that the consumer behaves in a certain way, interpretation of the same can be generally biased from personal experiences.”

Initially, it’s about validation and how a particular product works and not how it looks. The more invested you are in the prototype the more reluctant you will be in any drastic change from any feedback obtained, a common phenomenon of sunk cost fallacy.

Rapid Prototyping is anything which can make an idea (interpretation) tangible or enact a part of its real behaviour with least resources and time to evoke a response and move the product forward.

This prototype can be a sketch, a rough 3d model made from any available material or a storyboard anything which exhibits in the most basic form how the product behaves in its natural environment.

Amazon’s press releases allow for these rapid feedbacks. Although to manifest a press clipping to a tangible experience which works is a massive effort. People generally say something but act quite different. A user might be enticed to react positively to a press clipping of Artificial Intelligence considering the hype surrounding them. They although wouldn’t so easily appreciate use of a gesture in a press clipping, but that’s what is inherently easier to adopt.

Prototypes, therefore, should be a basic version of what you propose in an environment most natural for the consumer to respond in. The idea here isn’t generally to expect an applause, but an action which just flows naturally.

“The more invested you are in the prototype the more reluctant you will be in any drastic change from feedback obtained, a common phenomenon of sunk cost fallacy.”

I remember an experience on a redesign of a soap brand packaging in India. Although I wasn’t involved directly with the brand till then, I know because my colleague was in charge of the brand. They took the basic prototype and placed in the store to see consumer reactions. What they thought was a great design completely melted in the clutter of the soap brands.

They then iterated to eventually create a 3 soap stack with a bundled offer and also redesigned to provide for a clear contrast and discoverability from the aisle amongst the clutter on the shelf. This simple but effective design iteration caused a complete sellout of the product in store relaunch even before any advertisements started. The brand jumped from 11th to 3rd most selling Indian soap brand, an incredible feat considering the highly proliferated space.

Like most consumer focus groups had they placed the prototype on a table in a closed room and asked consumers, the problem of the environment would never have been noticed.

Prototyping is most effective when done in the natural environment and in collaboration with users. The early mistakes allow the team to course correct immediately and over time look at the subtle patterns which highlight the wants of the users.

Understanding these wants and having an obsessive desire to drive consumer delight by constantly communicating and eliminating any gaps between expectations and experience, leads to products which identify with users desires. This really gets a toehold on what users want.

Also, prototyping however rough gives a very realistic understanding of the efforts and feasibility of the product in terms of business and technical requirements and allows to leverage their capabilities in line with the consumers wants.

c. How not to f*ck it up!

Managers with a limited understanding of design see this process of — observing, rapid prototyping, iterating as slowing down shipping time. This cannot be far away from the truth.

A black box approach of idea generation and launch, which ignores the market is like throwing arrows in the sky and hoping it hits something.

Whereas the design process which works with and responds to consumer behaviour is about identifying the dartboard to aim at, and then assiduously honing your skills to hit the bullseye. It does so with little resources and time and gives a very rich data set to work with, in the course minimising risks and maximising value.

The design process is about identifying the dartboard to aim at, and then assiduously honing your skills to hit the bullseye.

In an information-rich, highly connected and incredibly convenient world of mobile commerce, the only way to ensure consumer loyalty is to design what they consider to be the best decision made. Constantly working with users to deliver the best solution every time, not only wins consumer loyalty but is the ideal way to growth.

Eventually what scales is not only product adoption but also the beautiful culture of user focus and delight.

What’s next?

In an innovation-led economy, the best asset is talent and the biggest cost is time. Building tools which allow for both consistency and flexibility in production cycle can not only help reduce time but also allow for the talent to explore and stretch their capabilities.

In the next part, we shall deep dive into design systems.

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