Journey of Design in Tech

Chapter 1

Status quo

This part of article is written with the following guidelines:

  1. Smart and talented teams have designed solutions mentioned here. The solution that is built works!
  2. Each set of screenshots shows solutions built to do one particular task. I am going to talk about the designed solution and not the business as a whole.
  3. I’m not here to provide alternate solutions. There’s always going to be a different way, may be a better way too.

Task: Add money to wallet

At first glance, the solution for this task looks obvious. It’s got to have one input field to enter the amount, and one button to submit. One of the improvisations is to have a quick way to enter the amount, providing three dividends of cash.

All of these apps needn’t have provided the quick cash improvisation.

Task: Searching Property (of all kinds)

A top-level navigation for search using tabs (Buy, Rent, Projects/Roommates)! Each tab reveals the relevant search criterion respectively. But mobile is fundamentally personal, and it provides opportunities for building the search experience.

All of these apps needn’t have used the tab view for search.

Task: Order Food

The workflow in all of the food ordering apps from restaurants is:

  1. Select a restaurant
  2. Select food items
  3. Order

There could have been different or better workflows in at least one of the products. Even if the business workflow is standard, there is a good scope for doing something better or different.

The first task in the workflow is “Selecting a restaurant” and the most obvious solution to facilitate that, is to list down the restaurants. But even to list down the restaurants there are several ways — List view, Grid Lists and Cards pattern.

Swiggy makes an attempt at communicating its business principles (food delivered faster) in design (shows delivery time as a primary parameter).

All of these apps needn’t use a list view to show restaurants.

Task: Book a Taxi

The workflow in booking a taxi is

  1. The app lands you on map view to show the live status of the cabs available, and the time it takes to reach you.
  2. Book the cab at your location or use the map marker for a different location.
  3. Select the type of vehicle.
  4. Ride Now / Later / other specifics

The first solution that comes to mind is to provide a list of taxis available showing the time it takes for the taxi to reach you and letting you book. All of these apps have gone beyond that and provided a map-view. Firstly the map view lets users know status of the taxi, and secondly it lets you change your pick up location, but Uber extends the scope.

Uber places the call to action button at the map marker and shows the time for the taxi to reach you, on the marker. All others provide the call to action button and time outside the map view. Each method has its pros and cons.

All of these apps needn’t use a map view to book a taxi.

Chapter 2

Build and trust the Design Process

This part of the article is written with following guidelines:

  1. The teams that built the solutions above already have a design processes established.
  2. I intend to provoke the reader to reflect on the status quo of design in technology by stating the well-known design process.

Think through the Problem

Fundamentally design is about problem-solving. Good design emerges only if problems are framed well.

Jonathan Ive about framing the correct problem.

When asked how he would design a combination pencil case, backpack and lunch box, Apple’s lead designer, Sir Jonathan Ive, drops some knowledge straight from the Apple playbook.

“If we’re thinking about a lunchbox, we’d be really careful about not having the word box already, to give you a bunch of ideas that could be quite narrow,” said Ive. “Because you think of a box as being square and like a cube. So we’re quite careful with the words that you use because those can be narrow and can determine the path that you go down.”

May be in the case with food ordering apps if the problem that was looked at was to design a restaurant list. The solution there has been already narrowed to be a list.

The problem space needs to be revisited and investigated thoroughly with all stakeholders.

Design Solutions

Once the problem has been thought through, teams often jump to the first solution that comes to them. The problem you’re solving is mostly already solved, but for a different time and with a different medium.

Doing good design is extremely difficult. It takes enormous amounts of research, exploration, prototyping, testing and refining. One cannot stick to a solution that works! Understand that no one gets it right for the first time.

Design is about adding value. In the case of mobile wallet apps, a simple test would have revealed how much value does the quick cash improvisation add. Perhaps teams could have also gone on to understand the behaviour of ‘fast-cash’ usage in ATMs.

The tech solutions that are built today aren’t for pro technology users anymore, and this makes it much more important for designers to concentrate on the experience. For example companies going mobile first are looking at new or first-time online users.

Good designers create products based on certain principles. Product design decisions need to be intentional rather than leaving it to chance and often these decisions are validated based on the principles.

Role of the Product Designer

John Maeda in his report suggests, start with design rather than end with it.

Design decisions are taken in each and every aspect of the product. In my previous article, I had written about how notifications can be a hindrance and create a bad user experience. Designers act as users advocate and know how best to provide the solution keeping users motivations and the business goals in mind.

Role of the Product Owners

Design is an investment that doesn’t readily give results. Once you’ve tested your MVP and have hit the market, core product offering can only be enhanced by the value design adds. Allocate resources to iterate and build better experiences.

Chapter 3

Disruption with Design

The design of a paper clip (Gem) is so clear and obvious, but it wasn’t surely the only design. In the late 1800s there were more than 30 different solutions that competed for the best design.

Like some hairless ape elevated by years of Darwinian selection, the Gem remains standing because no other solution is nearly as good.

One of the reasons why several designs emerged was because designs were patent protected, but no design could serve all purposes other than Gem Design. Probably someone, somewhere right now, is asking the right question and framing the right problem that could lead to an even better-designed paper clip — One that would probably change the way people think about paper clips.

Sponsorship section

This article is sponsored by the bright minds at Devthon. Devthon is an innovation platform that creates an experience to identify challenges, design solutions and prototype new product experiences by bringing together multidisciplinary stakeholders. You can read more about them on the following link.

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