UXA — Product Design Reflections

After reading the Principles of Product Design, I reflected on what principles resonated with me and why.

Product Design = Experience
One of the principles that really resonated with me was the fact that Product Design, like many other forms of design, is centered around the idea that the product is its experience. My interest in design stemmed from the fact that design is a form of communication other than written or spoken word. By manipulating an object, product, or space into a certain way, designers can effectively communicate/dictate how users interact and experience it. Design is the purest form of empathetic communication that doesn’t rely on a man-made system of language that people need to actively learn and conform to. Many etymological choices made in a language can be arbitrary or contextual to a specific people or region while design aims to be universally applicable via decisions made from series of empathetic research and strategy. After all, great design is so fluid and natural that it seems transparent and unnoticeable. And if every experience can be designed, designers can ultimately design behavior, and furthermore, lifestyles.

Experience ≠ Usefulness
The goal, or the purpose of a product is often, to be useful. However, there is a distinction between experience and usefulness. While the usefulness of a product certainly plays a part in the experience of an appreciative user, it is certainly not the sole element of the experience. The word “experience” is holistic, it covers everything from the product’s visual aesthetic to function, purpose, and to its individual interactive features. By allowing the definition of an experience to expand, many more considerations about the product come into light. A product usually aims to solve a problem, or improve the problem solving process, but it can also influence behavior outside of the intended scope. For instance, Nytimes recently published a piece about how venmo, by allowing easy reimbursement methods, may have made users become less generous with friends. This result is also part of the experience that the product has created.

Intended behavior may or may not be ≠ Resulting Behavior
During a recent mentor session, I was told to critically analyze a product that I often use. The app that came to mind was Poshmark, a social marketplace app used to buy, sell, and share used, new, and/or custom fashion goods. I live in New York City and I am always looking to downsize my personal items in order to maximize my living space. I have sold about 25 items over the past year and managed to make a decent amount in sales. I am overall happy with the app and found it immensely useful but I did notice that certain features were used in ways that seemed to depart from the intended function. Poshmark aims to provide the service of buying and selling goods directly between users through a bidding system similar to that of Ebay, but it also wants to serve social purposes by allowing users to share fashion styles via their items. To encourage social interaction between the users, Poshmark hosts virtual “parties” organized by fashion item, style, or brand categories — “Summer Lovin’ Party,” “Best in Shoes Party,” “Zara, Steve Madden, Topshop & J.Crew Party.” Users in these hour-long parties, share their appropriate items and browse through them for real-time active listings. The app also features a newsfeed like a social media platform and it is comprised of items from sellers or brands that the user follows.

Newsfeed filled with items shared by followed users and brands

One of the features that I think needs improvement is within the item page. When browsing an item, users tend to leave comments on the items admiring or leaving feedback, which fulfill the social aspect of Poshmark, but the comments feature is also used by potential buyers who have inquiries about the item. If the seller wants to respond to that inquiry, they also have to leave a comment on their own item, adding more layers to this disorganized list of comments and inquiries. This issue could have stemmed from a variety of factors — perhaps Poshmark lost its focus as a marketplace for buying and selling by trying to add features to make it into more of a social platform, or they simply thought that the comments feature would be used solely for buying & selling inquiries and did not expect it to be used for social purposes.

The endless feed of disorganized comments on a single item.

If I had to improve this app, I would want to make a distinction between inquiries and comments by allowing buyers to contact their sellers through a direct messaging feature. The app currently has a separate page for bidding which shows only the money offerings between the buyer and seller.

Offer page that allows buyer and seller to only offer and counteroffer

Sometimes it gets frustrating when I have offers that go back and forth like above situations. The potential buyer tries to negotiate with me by using comments because the offer page doesn’t offer a messaging feature. I think it’d be an intuitive change to combine this offer page with a chat that allows the buyer and seller to talk alongside their offers. I have edited it as such:

Edited offer page to include messaging feature

I hope Poshmark also applies continuous validated learning to allow for changes like these to be made!