How the design of innovative products is made

Як створюють дизайн інноваційних продуктів

“Design is not just the product development stage, it’s an attitude of the company,” Patrick Newbery, Chief Digital Officer of Globallogic, said. He was previously working on the design of innovative products for Google, Nokia, Microsoft and many other “monsters” of the market.
Innovation House met Patrick at Lviv IT Arena, the annual IT-conference, and questioned him about the present role of design. Moreover, he appraised the most successful Ukrainian startups on Kickstarter from the point of design.
– Once you said that design enhances the level of impressions from the product and forms the general attitude of the customer towards the company as a whole. Is it possible to make the successful product with poor design?

– Sure. Think about this: for any product or service there is a value it delivers. How much value it delivers is related to the needs for ease of user experience. If it provides a lot of value, people will put up with a little bit of complexity or a steeper learning curve.

The task of design is to deliver the value of your product in such a way so that the customer receives as much value as possible.

I used to work in Ernst & Young, and there was a partner there, who didn’t use computers. He hated them and had his secretarу read and type all his emails. When he learned that every public company’s SEC filings were available through an online database, he learned computer very quickly. Because the value of getting access to the information is so high, he felt it was worth the time to gain computer literacy.

If your product itself or a service is not high in a value, it doesn’t matter what design it has.

If it is high in a value, than you can get away with a less than perfect design. The challenge is, that the more we are moving to the digital age, the lower barrier of entry becomes. So, someone can come alone and provide product with the same value, but with better design. If you look at the iPod, there were mp3 players way before the iPod. People really liked them, but Apple came up with the much better experience. It didn’t do anything fundamentally different, it still played mp3, but everything about the experience was much better.

Nowadays we may see many product startups having small staff. One or two persons are dealing with design. In your opinion, how many persons are needed to make proper design of innovative product?

– It can be one person, if that person can do a lot of different things. It is really not a matter of how many people, but its realy matter of what they are doing. If you have a 30-person team, but they are only focused on one area, they might not provide much value.

In many instances interface of the product or service is just the part of user experience. And design shall be in every single thing: marketing defining, customer acquisition, support. Design is not just product development stage, it is sort of attitude of the company. Those who realize the role of design across the customer journey become successful.

In a product design sense, if it’s one person, and it’s a really good designer, and he can work well with the engineering team, you may need just one person. But in many cases (let’s say application for iOS version and Android version smartphones) you have to work with different audiences, create different design solutions. And in this case it is preferably for you to appoint a person responsible for each version of the product.

Imagine that you are small startup. You’ve just start your business and you want to make some incredible design. What should you do first?

– I think, the first thing that I do is look at what is the value of our product. Then I look what is our current situation with customers and try to understand the context: How we will introduce our product to customer? What they might say?

When the smartphones came out, all the carriers were pushing to buy smartphones. And they said: they have a camera, they connect to the internet, you need to buy this phone and this data plan. At the same time they sold feature phones, they’re connected to the internet, have a camera, but didn’t have a data plan. As a customer, why would I need a smartphone? Because at that moment when I looked at the feature list I saw no difference. But with a smartphone you have apps. You can actually customize your entertainment experience. Or you can get other apps and do things, that you can’t do with the feature phones. So you take the customer’s view of what you’re doing and be sure that you understand all of the ways they think.

So, you should know people…

– Well… Lot of times we may hear “we’ve done a market research”. But these are just the numbers. When you go and talk to somebody, and ask them what do they think about your product, you’ll learn a lot.

Should you ask you friends, relatives, people on the streets?

– Why not? Often it’s good to figure out, who is your target audience and talk to them.

We’re working with company, that is doing a web-camera. They believe, that wearables and high fashion are coming together. So they are working on design of web-camera to be a fashion accessory. Their target market is gonna be women with small children. Because women with the small children want to capture how the child is growing up. And they don’t want to take a camera out every time.

So, what we did to talk to moms with the small kids. It appears that if you got a two or three year old and you’re going to park with them, you’re not dressing up. You’re putting on sweater, or a T-shirt. A high fashion accessory – that’s nice, but it almost feels not at place. So, if you simply ask people, what they do, maybe you’ll go back with a more appropriate design.

Design of what innovation products, that currently exist on the market, impresses you most deeply?

– I find really interesting what Uber did. Because Uber basically solved few problems in one application. Problem number one is “how do I find a ride, an empty cab”. In big city in a rush hour it is difficult – every cab is taken. So number one – Uber matches the supply and demand and relieves from the necessity to search for the car by my own. That’s a brilliant thing. The second problem – “how do I pay for the ride”. Do I have to take a credit card? Do I have to take my wallet out? Do I leave my wallet in the car and get out, and cab wants to take off. Uber eliminated this risk and made all the process of payment is invisible.

In Ukraine it’s much complain on Uber. Because very often they send you cars of very bad quality…

– You can find the same problems in United States. Once I was waiting for my car and saw it turn around half a block away from me and start driving in the other direction. And then driver calls me and says “where are you?” At first sight, the problem is his map and directions app. But it reveals another problem: the driver does not think. He looks at the screen, at where arrows lead him, and does not look at the street. In this case, the driver is the key element of value that Uber carries, and he compromises the entire user experience.

What products do consider as a failure (perhaps, iPhone 8?) Please give some examples of what you like and what you do not like.

– Well… Talking about iPhone. If you look at AirPods, which are not wired, you may think “oh my God, what a mistake”. You will never lose one, when they are wired together. But when they are two separate, you are going to lose one. But this may actually change customer behavior.

One my friend said “New wireless AirPods are amazing.” It turns out that they work perfectly good with with personal assistant Siri and are charged quickly. And if they are cheaper… If you think about the future of wearables, we actually don’t need phone to make a call. All you need is a connection, which could be in a watch or in such kind of device. So that’s why it’s not easy to say, whether the product is bad. Sometimes it’s just too early to draw any conclusions.