Andy Budiman (feature image), chief product officer at Detexian write that in 2020, human-centred design must fuse with customer-centric marketing. Here’s why …
We all know how it usually goes. Someone comes up with a clever idea. They toil over it for months or years, working on prototype after prototype until they perfect the design and function. When they get to a product that delivers on its promise and can sell, it’s turned over to marketing who look at it and say, “who will buy this and how can we make it appeal?”
By this time, it’s too late to do anything to make it more palatable to the customer.
Steve Jobs understood this. Almost four decades ago he led the team that created the first Apple Mac, Jobs recognised that a product had to be more than functional. It had to appeal to the people who would you use it and create an emotional – almost visceral – connection to them.
While Apple doesn’t follow a conventional approach, what it understood, perhaps before many other companies, was that great design isn’t a feature that’s added to the specification when a product is designed. It’s embedded in every decision about every function.
Human-centered design, which is also called user-centered design, puts the needs of people into every decision made about a product’s development and evolution. And perhaps the best equipped people in a business to do that are marketers. They are keenly aware of what customers want and they understand their existing customers preferences. That goes beyond a functional perspective but into the emotional connections people feel with the products they use.
Think about a frustrating app on your computer or smartphone. Recently, I purchased an app for creating simple databases. The app had two sides, one for my computer and another for my smartphone. However, I discovered after spending my money that the two applications, while similar, didn’t behave the way I expected and that led to frustration.
I contacted the developer over social media who told me what I wanted could be done but it was “too hard”. Some further research revealed that many other customers had the same problem. That’s a sure sign that the creator of the app didn’t take a human-centred approach to the design. It’s not that what they created was ugly; they just didn’t consider the different personas and use-cases. It meant an obvious requirement for many users was missed. Development was led in a vacuum without thinking about the needs of different users.
Marketing is about ensuring a product or service is represented to audiences in a way that resonates. And the best way to get a product to resonate with your target market is by engaging people who know your customers from the outset. For a product to succeed it must be one people enjoy using. And that goes way beyond pure functionality.
Over the last decade, we’ve seen user-centered design completely turn industries such as transportation and accommodation on their heads. Instead of design decisions being made with the business’ interest at the centre, the needs of users became the focus. It’s why companies like Pepsi Co have a chief design officer. When he joined the company, he took then CEO Indra Nooyi to Milan to see how design could impact a brand, opening her eyes to a world where design decisions completely change how people think about brands and products.
Instead of handing a product over to marketing to “sell”, why not engage marketing at the start of the process? They’re the people most likely to understand the audience you are designing and developing the product for and it’s highly likely they will see beyond the developer’s vision and bring a different and valuable perspective. Engineers, developers, programmers and designers need the input of the marketing team from the outset because true cross-disciplined collaboration leads to innovation, new solutions and represents greater diversity of thinking.
While many products appeal to specific technical audiences, being able to design a product so that people can connect to it at an emotional level means you can bring non-technical decision-makers on your journey. This opens new sales channels and highlights that you are thinking about how people will use a product.
You could design a SaaS security product that tells you when something isn’t compliant with your policies. Or you could design a product that tells you when your risk profile changes or gives you a dashboard with meaningful information when something is amiss like we’ve done at Detexian.
By putting people at the centre of design decisions you can create meaningful products and services that are more than a collection of moving parts. You can create tools that give people positive experiences.