The first question that needs answering is that of use. Is it useful? Does it improve someone’s life? Does it make something easier, faster, more efficient, more productive? If your amazing widget is a beautiful piece of design, all credit to you, product designer. But unless it solves an issue, or improves on an existing design, your amazing widget will likely fall by the wayside, cast into the dust-pile of “products that could have been”. That’s a pretty big pile to be part of.
Don’t assume your product will immediately cure the ills of your consumers. Despite having a glorious design, your product may be lacking something your competitors do extremely well, hence their still being your competitor, active in the marketplace.
Before releasing your product to the wider market, it needs stringent testing to establish exactly what it is setting you apart from the masses. Are you delivering pleasure, or reducing pain?
If you’re sure the product is a step above everything else on the market, you can move onto the next vital component: functionality. Does your product actually perform its given role well? Consider:
I’ve boiled some very important requirements down to single words. Why? Because focusing on these words should help you decide where you product lies in this spectrum. Does it rate highly on each scale? Or is it something your potential consumers can work with, learn with, and feel at ease with?
You’ll understand more about your product functionality during the prototyping phase. Working prototypes can quickly dispel any superfluous ideas you have surrounding your product and should enable you to quickly build a picture of exactly how potential end users will actually use the product. They’ll likely quickly discover flaws in your product usability. It is no bad thing. You want these issues discovered long before the product hits the market.
Remember, this isn’t a one-time procedure. If your product testers deride a number of product features, take their feedback, improve what you have and send the product back to the same testers. Listen to their feedback, closely. They are adding serious value to your design process.
Despite the very clear reality, consumers will always perceive an enjoyable product to be vastly more useful than their less exciting-though-vastly-more-useful counterparts. Despite this irksome quirk of human nature, it does boil down to a more basic facet of product design psychology: consumers will relax when enjoying themselves. Brains work smoothly, activities are effortless, tasks are easier to complete.
If your product can trigger those mechanisms, you’ll be onto a winner. The aesthetics of your product will come into play, alongside those already discussed components of usability and functionality, and no matter what you do, you design is susceptible to the benefits (and flaws) of the Principles of Influence.
View your product from every angle. Make sure you have multiple testers. Listen to their feedback; act on both positive and negative, and consider user input as another extremely valuable resource in your design processes.
Image courtesy of MR LIGHTMAN / freedigitalphotos.net.