The Importance of Holistic Design for Successful Products
While Google has a far bigger market share in the search business than other similar search engines, Apple’s iPhones have been flying off the shelves faster than Apple can replace them. Google’s website has a very simple look and feel, and the flow of visitors never stops. As for Apple, people like their iPhones so much that they can be seen flaunting their acquisitions as soon as they get their hands on one.
The point to all of this is that users seem to believe that Google Search and iPhones are more useful than other similar products for the same intended purposes.
What is the secret of their success? Does usability have anything to do with it? Arguably, Google does have a simple interface with a powerful search algorithm, and iPhones are very good looking.
Jacob Nielsen recently posted the results of a “User Satisfaction vs. Performance” study on his Alertbox, saying “...users prefer the design with the highest usability metrics 70 percent of the time. But not 100 percent.”
What does this mean? It looks like the ease of use, or usability, is not everything. The users prefer usability, but they expect a product with functionality to fulfill an objective, and that counts too.
Another important aspect of design is the clear understanding of the users’ hearts and minds. User empathy is crucial to the system design, too.
Once, I developed an application where users had to answer security questions before their first login. During a feedback session, many users indicated their dislike of answering the personal questions. A user said that she was “emotionally disturbed” because a question reminded her of a bad personal life event. I quickly realized that we built something that lacked empathy toward my user group. Empathy includes understanding the demographics and cultural nuances particular to the user group.
It can be concluded that the overall user experience plays a big role in the success of a product. Additionally, building systems that provide a delightful user experience is a balancing act. The right mix of ease of use, behavior, and consideration for user empathy comprises the overall user experience. Dare I say that it is a tricky mix of art and science?
Rightfully, Don Norman, in his book Emotional Design, proposes designing products in a holistic way to include their attractiveness, their behavior, and the image they present to the user and of the owner.
Once you get the product in the users’ hands, the appropriately designed product should give its owners the feeling of joy and pride of ownership.
How about the rest of you? What are your stories of building a product with the right user experience?