The era of usable design

Dyson VacuumsOne of the interesting by-products of the information/internet age has been the speed with which people provide feedback on products and services. In the olden days a company would make something, market it through mass media, one-way marketing (TV/radio/print) and watch sales go up or down. Why sales were going up or down was anyone’s best guess, and those guesses were often based on anecdotal market research and focus groups that weren’t very comprehensive or timely.

But now businesses have the opportunity to know a lot more. The web’s interactive format, social environments, and user-generated content can cause feedback to be almost instantaneous. Some organizations have become great listeners to the online buzz, others – not so much.

For those companies who are really listening, one message is coming through loud and clear in a way that it never has before: Design matters.

Old world businesses were built around capability. What could the product do? What could the service provide? How will I compete against my competitor who has more capabilities than I do? Are my capabilities performing reliably? Things were shifted out of balance toward the logical and the rational.

Then the companies who were really paying attention (like Google, Apple, Honda, Dyson and Southwest Airlines) started to hear the message about design. They started to focus on usability, utility, simplicity, experience – things that matter more to the emotional side than they do to the rational side. They have been rewarded for it. And now you see others following the lead, and the overall level of design in the products and services we use is being elevated. A balance is being achieved between capability and design across the board.

It’s a new, more elegant world in the making, and now when you approach development of the product or service your company is selling, you must see it as a combination of both science and art.

More on usable design principles , and the business case for usability.

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