How to build a tech product #2: Design

by Patrick Weissert, CPO

Imagine an 11 year old car upgraded with conversational Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning in an advanced piece of hardware that can be installed in 3 minutes — that’s Chris. A deep tech product for low tech consumers. We share our learnings on how to build a tech product in a series of articles. Today: Design.

In the first month we ran an extensive “phase 0” of the design, going into more than 20 design directions, researching materials, similar products, collecting inspirations, etc. We then used simple tools like popularity scores (the green stickers) and post-it markups to come to some of the fundamental decisions around the design.

The important take away from this exercise is a reconfirmation of what you are and what you are not, and a treasure trove of ideas that you can tap into for the next months and years.

Customer interviews

One really useful side effect of our office location in an industrial area of Berlin is that it is right next to two car maintenance shops, one focussing on tires, and the other on general maintenance.

People go there to get their tires changed or car repaired, and then they sit and wait for 30–45 minutes. What a perfect opportunity to conduct customer interviews with drivers for a product that goes into their cars!

For example we would load a range of design variations onto a tablet, walk down there, spend an afternoon, and come back with 5–10 high quality, in depth interviews of customers right in our target audience. And we didn’t spend a dime!

Testing with videos

Videos are a very powerful way to test concepts and features. For example we were unsure how important the gesture recognition would be to the proposition, and whether people understood what to do. When we ran our first smoke tests on a simple web page with product picture galleries, we had the impression people “rationally” understood the product, but did not emotionally connect. They also had no clue what “gesture recognition” should be. and what it’s good for.

So we got in the car and recorded a video. Initially we also used our own voices and one of the interns was cutting them, but that turned out to be too low quality. Our testers got distracted by the quality of the video.

So we “upgraded” the video with slightly better photography (a better camera and some lessons learned), better visuals (by then we had them), professional voices (we knew we would need them anyways later), and a cutter who was a student but cutting was his target profession.

The result was a video that looked ok on first sight, and the effect was amazing. Suddenly everyone picked up on the gestures, and they were truly wowed — and we now knew that hand gestures would be an essential part of Chris.

Like how we work? Check our job opening.

Up next: Technology

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter | check our website

Patrick Weissert is founder & chief product officer at German Autolabs. He is passionate going on weekend-trips and has been waiting for years for someone to build a good voice assistant for cars. Now he is building it himself.