“If the user is having a problem, it’s our problem.”
- Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Computers
In today’s digital age, people easily jump from one product to another at the slightest sign of discomfort or inconvenience. If a product’s design, usability, relevancy, or user experience is poor, it’s almost guaranteed your customer will be looking at alternative options. And why not? Years ago, product development was more in the hands of product designers, and design was more of an afterthought. However, that does not hold true today. Design is no longer just about a product feature, look or feel. Instead, it is the means to elevate an experience.
Why design and user experience matter?
A Forrester study shows that a well-designed UX design could boost conversion rates up to 400%.
Do you remember the Nike Fuelbelt? It is okay if you don’t as the product was discontinued as quickly as it was launched. Nike had high hopes with this product as an entrant to the wearable tech market. The product definitely had Nike’s trademark design aesthetics, but poor product interaction and user experience (super inconvenient charging port and confusing integration of the app and physical product) quickly led to its’ demise.
Having an excellent website and user experience can still make customers quickly disengage if the product design does not meet their needs. Making that error is equally lethal (ouch!).
“Good design is good business.”
- Thomas J. Watson Jr., IBM
Today designing the right product and user experience is a matter of survival. The acceleration of the digital age is increasing competition. Years ago, the cellphone industry was monopolized by Nokia and Motorola, and now customers can opt for endless manufacturers, from Apple, Google, Samsung to Redmi, OPPO, and OnePlus. Poor product design and lack of relevancy led to the demise of manufacturers that once were the industry pioneers.
Focusing on Both - Design and User Experience
Afraid that trying to deliver top-notch product and user experience will be accompanied by mammoth costs? While it might be possible, it is important to pay attention to both product design and user experience without compromise. Below, we highlight how some brands successfully integrate product and user experience.
The Underestimated Importance of User and Product Research
What is user research? Long story short: user research is about uncovering your end user’s key behaviors, needs, and motivation through observation studies, task analysis, and feedback methodologies. User research is vital because it stresses the importance of the end user through the entire design process. This enables you to ideate, design, prototype, and test with a clear understanding of end goals and also saves costs associated with starting from scratch. Furthermore, user research helps you design products and experiences that are truly relevant and provide joy at use.
For example, Korean electronics brand, Samsung conducted user research to help them put the changing needs of their customers while designing their TVs. Through user and product research, they discovered that customers no longer wanted bulky televisions and preferred a more minimalist design that fits well into the home, as seamless as their furniture. This prompted them to remove inbuilt speakers and numerous buttons and design a TV with the latest technological capabilities. By paying attention to the design of the product and keeping the customer needs at the center of it all, Samsung delivered a joyful user experience.
Interaction Design - Designing for Ease of Use
Paying attention to interaction design can also help deliver a seamless product and user experience to your customer. Interaction design is the design of the interaction between users and products. Wait, isn’t that the same thing as user experience (UX)? It’s not. Interface design is a subset of UX and an interaction designer literally just focuses on how a customer uses the products. They dive into the world of labeling buttons/features, typography, color palette, and icons, to understanding how (using a mouse, hands, pen, etc,.) and in what space or setting does the customer actually uses the product. Paying attention to interaction design elevates the overall user experience, thus making your product stand out in the marketplace.
For example, Adidas demonstrates a simple, yet effective interaction design by allowing users to see a quick preview of products without having to open a new tab on their website and mobile. The interaction design also places objects in the cart and allows you to continue a smooth shopping experience. The familiarity and universal design of this interaction, regardless of device and medium, adds to the user experience.
‘Compromise’ is Not the Answer
Even a simple hindrance such as locating the purchase or help button can cost you a customer today. Focusing design and user experience allow you to pinpoint all the customer touch points through a sales cycle. Instead of focusing on just one element, like just product design that can bury you amongst the competition, use user interface research and product research to design a seamless product and user experience without compromise and deliver limitless pleasure!
When we talk about compromises, a lot of brands jump straight to cutting costs. That’s actually an ideal compromise. Infact, designing a product without asking for user validation can be quite risky and expensive. On the other hand, if the brand engages with the users frequently within the development process, it enables fast prototyping and user validation. Sure, all the prototypes might not work, but the benefits come in the form of first mover advantage and agile products.
For example, Oasis, UK fashion retail brand, does it in the most impressive ways. They’ve integrated a true and omnichannel strategy in their approach for their customers to have a unified experience. Their Instagram feed is full of products that could be bought from the social channel itself, apart from other dedicated Instagram stories according to different locations and collections.
Even the offline experience is equally integrated with in-store stylists giving you on the spot style advice according to your preferences. Similar to a Nike store, where they take payments within the aisle you picked the shoe from, which also negates the possibility of you standing in long queues, Oasis offers that experience too - not compromising on either the user experience or cost.
In a Nutshell
Design and user experience go beyond a color scheme and a logo, it’s an ecosystem in itself, of various touchpoints, that affect user experience with your brand. Experience design is now about ‘what they say when you’ve left the room’. And design aesthetics and user experience when put together help break down the barriers between the physical and digital worlds.