An Un-classical Framework for Product Design
Product Design in Perspective
I remember listening to an interview by Daniel Burka, where he talks about how designers can make mediocre ideas look attractive. Once a coupon selling site was redesigned to make it look visually better but visits went down as people didn’t believe that something that beautiful can sell discounts.
Focus on right aesthetic for the right problem, you don’t want farmer’s market to look as beautiful as Disneyland. Often at times, it is giddiness of the things makes people feel that they are trustworthy. Even though the coupons website might have looked visually better than ever before, it wasn’t a well designed product as it brought down the number of visits on the website.
A couple of months back, a friend of mine went to buy one specific pair of adidas shoes from a multi-branded retail shop nearby. However, the shop seemed a bit rusty and unauthentic from outside, and even though the shoes were discounted by a huge margin, he refrained buying shoes as he feared that they might not be original. Instead he decided to order it online even though there was no discount online and it would take at-least a week to get them delivered.
Even though the shoe was the same both online and at the retail shop, the rustiness of the shop lost the trust of the user. It’s not just the final output i.e the shoe in this case that is important but the complete customer experience from start to end of journey that makes a great customer experience.
Product Design as a discipline has evolved voraciously in the past few years, circling at the intersection of Design, Business and Tech. In simple words product design is the process of solving a real world problem in the most optimal way possible so as to achieve certain business outcome.
Uncanny Similarities Between Product Design and Movies
While reading the book Creativity Inc, I figured out that there are not so obvious similarities between a well directed movie and a well designed product. There is tremendous amount of time and effort spent deciding on what to make rather than how to make.
While writing movies, a lot of initial time is spent in polishing plots and nourishing characters so that they can adept to the story. Similarly, while designing products a huge chunk of time is spent on understanding the problem at hand. However, once the gist of the movie has been figured out it is usually converted to a script which details down each and every nitty gritty associated to plots down to acting instructions and scene directions.
Going forward script acts as a source of truth for different stakeholders, not that it cannot change but there is something that everyone has agreed to before starting out to make a film. I felt this is something that got missed in our design process as we grew bigger and difficult to operate. Having realised this I set on to create design script.
Drafting a Design Script
If I were to put it up mathematically, Product Design can be defined as a function of Stories and Outcomes,
Product Design = lim(n→∞) Function (Story, Outcome)
Outcome refers to goal that needs to be accomplished, and
Story refers to the optimal path that helps you achieve that goal, and
n refers to the number of iterations done. More the number of iterations done based on user feedback, better the product will be.
A typical design script is comprised of 4 different sections i.e
Stories , and
Let’s take an example of a Grammar Checking chrome extension to understand how one can draft a Design Script -
While writing emails or blogs on the web, people often mistype and ignore grammatical errors. Create a chrome extension which can help users in real time to know and correct their mistakes without losing any context.
- Outcome 1: Make the user aware of wherever there are errors so that he does not publish / send the text without rectifying.
- Outcome 2: Help the users correct the mistakes so that they can rectify them if they are not sure or aren’t fluent in English.
- Story 1(→ Outcome 1): Highlight the text where there are grammatical errors to make the user aware that there is some error in the content.
- Story 2 (→ Outcome 2): On click of the highlighted text, help the user understand what’s the error is. Example: Spelling mistake
- Story 3 (→ Outcome 2): On click of the highlighted text, also share how the user can correct the mistakes by showing him possible solutions. Example: Recommending correct spellings.
- Criteria 1: Tracking number of clicks on on highlighted text can help us understand how many people are finding it helpful.
- Criteria 2: Tracking number of clicks vs number of errors can help us tell how many users are using recommended solutions.
This is a very small example how a sample Design Script might look like. However, this can be adapted based on how you operate assuming the gist of outcomes and stories remain the same. Here is an example template that you can clone to start writing one for yourself.
How does it help?
- It helps to create a common ground for engineers, product managers and designers to understand what is being solved in an organised format.
- It helps to merge the construct of use-cases and scenarios into more of an outcome driven approach.
- The first version of the document which we call as MVP is n=0 and further iterations are referred to as n=1, n=2 etc which are based on learnings from the previous one.