An important thing to always keep in mind while designing things for other people, is that the market changes, society changes, and thus the societies needs and wants change as well. People used to be happy with just coffee-beans, bringing their own jar and going home with just beans, this was around 1930, eventually they wanted pre-made coffee ready to take at the correct moment. And eventually that didn’t suffice anymore, people expected experiences, they wanted an experience around buying coffee.
These changes in the society we work for, also influence our work, it influences what we should be doing. As employees of design company’s our work is very familiar in many ways. We create designs (may it be for web, mobile or print), that is just pre-packet coffee; it’s just a website that is doing what it’s suppose to do, it’s just functional, and not an experience. Does that matter? I think it does. And after I read a lot about experience design and service design, I came to know a lot of leading marketeers and designers who share this opinion. Some even claim that we, as design company’s, can’t be successful anymore if we don’t adopt a new way of designing; designing experiences.
The reason for this claim is that, as I said before, the society changes, and so are their expectations. As humans we start to think more about what truly matters in live. We are coming to the discovery that physical tangible products are not the things that make us happy, and are thus not the things we are looking for. We start to look for things that have meaning to us. But a products that’s just functional, often does not offer this meaning.
Creating meaning requires a complete new approach of your design process, and change is often scary. At the moment you might be profitable, any change in your process might decrease that profit, and the first time you might even fail, so change is scary. So why would be? Well, the argument for your company’s CEO is simple, they want to stay profitable and sustainable in the future as well, and keep making money. I personally don’t give a shit about money, and my motivation has always been to create “things” that make people happy. Or as Stefan Sagmeister calls it “happy design”; happiness by design. I personally really like his way of looking at design, and his reason to design.
Your biggest question now might be, how do we achieve this? Unfortunally I don’t have the experience to tell you, fortunally there are many others wo do and write books about it. So I hope to summarize all that information and give you a brief starter-kit to creating meaning and hopefully inherent to that; successful products.
The short answer to this question, is very simple: co-creation. The longer answer hopefully gives you a little more insight. Co-creation is a new way of working a lot of good designers swear by. It’s a way of working where you don’t create a website (or any other product that has to be designed), by sitting behind your desk all day. If you adopt co-creation into your process, you are constantly talking to the end user. Have a concept? Don’t design it yet, ask the user what they thing. Have a wireframe or a quick sketch? Ask the user what they think. And so forth.
Concept phase: Concepts can’t be created by just your co-workers and you anymore. Concepts need to be created with your target group. There are many different methods of doing so. A simple and not to expensive one is just doing a brainstorm with them. More complicated and advanced methods are: “bodystorming”, “shadowing”, “laddering interviews”, “storyboards” or (one that is very useful but takes a lot of time) “Cultural Probe”. To keep this blogpost to a reasonable size, I won’t go into any details about how to apply these methods. And I’m also sure you know how google works 😉
A while back I created a comic-page of my concept, creation several cartoons for each concept. Bring them to the people on the streets, and let them choose the comic story they like best.
For the wireframe/sketch proces you can apply similar co-creation methods. Such as “card-sorting”, “a/b testing” or simply bringing your sketches to the people and ask what they think. Run a few test and I’m sure you will get useful input.
Design phase: The design process is not much different from the latter two. Just constantly bring your design to the target audience, get your stuff out there before launching it.
After reading this blogpost I want you to be able to instantly apply new stuff at your job. There are loads of argument not to apply above methods, they all contain the word money or time. But even applying one method is a 100 times better than applying none. And when your employee sees the value in your extra effort, the value of a certain research method, you might even introduce a second one. And eventually you increase the success of your products, create products people love, and hopefully add some meaning to them. Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions, just ask.