Posts about ‘design’

Objective Truth

How do we know we’re designing right? How do we know our design is good? Is “good enough” for a client the same as “good enough”? Who decides if a design is good? Or bad? Is good-or-bad really the right scale for describing design? How does a company manage design “quality” across a small, large, or distributed staff of designers? What is design “quality”?

How Good Is Good Enough?

I swing back and forth wildly between perfectionist and that’s-good-enough-ist. Perfectionism is easy to explain, and many designers and engineers spend time there. But what does it mean to feel like good enough is good enough? When do you cross from “not good enough” to “good enough”? Often, companies find themselves in a morass of market requirements, regulatory requirements, goals, nice-to-haves, and wouldn’t-it-be-cools, without good tools for sorting them out.

A Picture Is Worth…

Many of the medical-technology companies I work for ask us to develop interfaces that use no text–icons only. It’s one of my least favorite conversation with a client. We sit in front of a very long list of product features; I envision a very simple menu system, organized to let the user easily find what he needs; the client says, “of course, we want to sell this in Europe and Asia, so everything has to be icon-driven. My heart sinks.

Getting Detailed

A couple of years ago, a really large consumer electronics manufacturer hired my company to do an evaluation of their products relative to their consumers, both in terms of basic “design” (by which they meant aesthetics) and usability. I managed the usability effort, and we examined 40 or so products in 5 categories, including portable electronics and large appliances, over the course of a couple of marathon days in a London hotel function room.

It was a pretty fun, if exhausting, experience, and I learned something along the lines of what Seth Godin suggests. If product manufacturers would just bring in some broad-thinking designers at the last minute, the consumer’s experience would be better. Maybe much better.

Mapping The Conversation

A tool that I end up using on nearly every project is the “Conversation Map.” I wrote a while ago about treating product interactions as conversations, and this is one of the simple-yet-key ways I use to make sure the interaction make sense and follows the conversational rules we all expect.

Here’s a simple example: what does the interaction between a vending machine and a customer look like? I put together a quick conversation map…

Carrying The Clubs

I’ve written previously about using the idea of “hiring a product” as a way to think more broadly about the relationship between consumer and product. Here’s an example.

Expressed And Implied

Sometimes, a feature that may never be used is given the “Primary Feature” treatment. Doing this changes the consumer’s perception of the product, on the shelf or in use.

Frequently Urgent

Here’s a tool that we use often both to analyze and plan consumer experience. I’ll talk about it here as a piece of a product design process, but we use it for service design, retail design, even to plan a business model.

Conference Reflection

It’s hard to believe that we still have to recommend to companies that they consider the consumer’s entire process of learning, deciding, buying. The new things that are changing the interaction between company and consumer–like the “social media” stuff that presenters at this conference talked about–aren’t changing the fundamental need to know the consumer.


A fair amount of the work I do involves the design of “user interface.” I don’t know who coined that term, but it’s interesting. I’m sure it was a software engineer, who divided his or her work into “writing the code that actually does stuff” and “writing the code that lets the user interface with the code that actually does stuff.” It’s a term with product-orientation–if we were consumer oriented, we’d call it the “product interface.”

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