Saturday, May 23, 2009

Product design & focus groups

The product, or a feature, should be always designed with the new user
in mind
. If a new user can use it, the power user will find it a bliss.

"Less is more" -- try to avoid the feature creep, or hanging bells and
whistles just because it is possible, or just because you think they
might be useful. The iPod originally was supposed to have FM radio and
a voice recorder, yet Apple decided against that, despite user feedback.


Have a concise, clear definition of the product, from the
beginning. Make 100% sure user understands it intuitively.

The hardest thing in product development is to determine what NOT to
include
, how to simplify the user experience. An average customer who
returns a gadget, does so not because it did not work, but because
they could not figure it out in first 20 minutes.

"Creativity in art and technology is about individual expression. Just
as an artist couldn't produce a painting by conducting a focus group,
Apple doesn't use them either. Jobs can't innovate by asking a focus
group what they want -- they don't know what they want."

Henry Ford once said: "If I'd asked my customers what they wanted,
they'd have said a faster horse.
"

Observe new users and find out what needs to be refined in the
product, but they cannot tell you what they want, you have to discover
it yourself. All Sony's market research indicated that a Walkman was
going to fail, yet Akio Marita pushed on with his vision and it became
one of the most popular products ever sold. Customers usually don't
know what they want unless it has been already created, and if it was
already created you should not be in this business.

Spend time and effort refining the basic functionality before adding
the next feature. Original, pre-Steve Jobs OS X team had 1 designer on
staff doing ugly gray boxes, after Steve took over they would spent 2
weeks on a single scroll bar until they made it perfect.

As a leader, be strong about these principles, don't give in to the
"design by comitee", or your product will fail.