Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Lifecycle of Design: Part 2

Part 2 of previous article about how design changes products ...

"Luke Wroblewski
Sounds like we are in agreement about the need to shift the conversation with consumers from pure utility toward desirability as products get closer to commoditization. And yes, there's lots of factors -like the type of material in a pan, or the continued sharpness of a knife- beyond pure aesthetics that help turn commodity into luxury. But great visual design can't hurt when you are trying to charge one hundred dollars for a cutting board!

I'm also glad you brought up my quote about telling users what they are seeing, how it works, and why they should care. From my experience, these three considerations are always at the heart of "design as communication" regardless of where a product is in its lifecycle. The only potential difference is which message is speaking the loudest.

"What is this?" communicates utility. How will this product be useful to me? Function is critical. After all for utility to exist, a product has to work.

"How do I use it?" is all about usability. How do I get the maximum utility out of this? Function is no longer enough if it is not clearly exposed and communicated. You need an effective intersection of function and form.

"Why do I care?" is desirability. I know what it does for me and how but why should I do it that way? Function is expected and as a result form needs to create an emotional connection through brand or value proposition.

Which brings me back to your original question: what about the success of sites like MySpace and CraigsList? When these products emerged, the focus of the conversation with consumers was on "What is this?". Unfortunately this may have come at the expense of "How do I use it?" and "Why do I care?" as both of these examples don't have great usability and, as you pointed out earlier, they are both often cited as being "ugly"."   (Continued via Functioning Form)    [Usability Resources]

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