WELL-DESIGNED: HOW TO USE EMPATHY TO CREATE PRODUCTS PEOPLE LOVE Authors: Jon Kolko Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press Price: Rs 1,250 ISBN: 9781625274793
A design strategy should, like any other strategy, be formalized in an artifact. Put another way, if you don't write it down, there's little chance that anyone will remember it, believe in it, or act on it. And because a strategy is about a future state, it's useful to include means with ends - to show both the road map that will be used to achieve the strategic results as well as the intended strategic goal.
PowerPoint is the go-to medium for the development of most strategy documents, but strategy documents are too important to be relegated to such a conventional, boring medium. For maximum effect, use a really big, floor-to-ceiling timeline of value-based activities. When you print things really big, they come to life. People can't help but notice them. If you hang a thirty-by-fifteen road map in the lobby of your building, you can bet that people will notice it and talk about it. They'll absorb the totality of the road map, realizing that strategy is long term and requires patience. There's a sense of practicality to a strategy when it's accompanied by a timeline of actions. It shows both vision and realism at once.
A design strategy takes three artifacts - an emotional value proposition, a concept map, and a product road map - and combines them into a single tool. Keep in mind that a design strategy is more than just a tool or document, because it can act as a powerful reminder of purpose. A good strategy becomes ingrained within the DNA of the company and becomes second nature to the people who need to execute it.
Identifying emotional value proposition The first part of the design strategy is the emotional value proposition. A value proposition is a promise to produce value for a customer. The promise is communicated to customers comprehensively; it's both explicit in the value line (and communicated through marketing) and also implicit in the design decisions that define and shape the product (and communicated through product use).
To understand your value proposition, ask - and answer - this value question: what can someone do after using or acquiring your product that she couldn't do before using or acquiring your product?
Value is often described in an economic sense as a form of wealth that's created, such as money, or another scarce resource, time. It's tempting, then, to answer the value question from a standpoint of utility, describing the practical things your product helps someone do. For example, if you were just starting a search engine to compete with Google, you might describe how your product "helps people find information." That makes sense; it's even part of Google's mission statement, "to organise the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." Its little publicised value line, Search, Ads, and Apps, echoes this.
Google's value statement is about getting things done and increasing efficiency. It is clear, straightforward, and can easily be tracked and measured. You can use a statement of value as vetting criteria for new features and functions, or even for the organization of the company. When someone has a great idea for a new product, you could ask, "How will this new idea support our value line of search, ads, and apps? How will it help people find information? How will it help organize the world's information?"
But these comments of utilitarian value are only a part of the story. A customer will buy or use a specific product not just because of what it does, but also because of how it makes him feel. To begin to understand the emotional connection between a product and a person, think about feelings, aspirations, desires, and dreams. Ask this revised question: what can someone feel after using or acquiring your product that he couldn'tfeel before using or acquiring your product?
Developing a product stance The second piece of your design strategy comes from determining the product stance. This highly subjective quality common in digital products floats between brand and utility. Product stance is the attitude your product takes, its personality. Stance is manufactured and designed, and from a particular product stance flow features, functions, language, imagery, and other formal design qualities. Stance is similar to, but different from, market fit, usability, or usefulness. Stance can be applied purposefully or haphazardly. It can evolve from an existing brand language, or it can be created from scratch. Product stance can evolve from an understanding of users, from an understanding of market, or from the attitude and approach of an individual designer. Product stance is about feelings. But feelings are hard to formalise. Conversations about feelings in analytical environments are hard to find.
Reprinted by permission of Harvard Business Review Press. Excerpted from 'Well-Designed: How to Use Empathy to Create Products People Love.' Copyright 2014 Jon Kolko. All rights reserved
The design approach to product management focuses on people rather than business or technology: Jon Kolko
The design approach starts with the question, “What will our product help people feel that they couldn’t feel before buying or using it?” Jon Kolko tells Ankita Rai
You run against the conventional wisdom by saying that most people don’t buy products because they are superior or have more functions. They do so in order to connect with it on an emotional level. How can the design process be used to forge connection with consumers? Many product development processes recognise the need for user research in order to direct and inform product direction. But these research methodologies typically focus on what people say, rather than what they do. A survey, focus group, or customer interview, is removed from actual engagement. As a consequence, the findings are thin, and often inaccurate. More importantly, they don’t give the product team a view into human aspirations. A design approach to product management focuses on these human qualities rather than defining functional criteria. It is about answering the question, “what will our product help people feel that they couldn’t feel before buying or using it?” To get to an answer to this question requires two steps.
First, the product team needs to observe real behaviour in order to build an empathetic, rather than an analytical, connection with the people who will use or benefit from a product. This means watching people work, live, and play; immersing yourself in the environment in which these things happen; trying the activity in an apprentice format; and forming a personal connection with the people you are serving. For example, in designing a new travel product, rather than asking people to “describe how you typically travel”, watch people actually travel. This takes more time, but yields more depth. You don’t need a lot of data points to form an empathetic connection with travellers; watch around 10 people travel rather than a statistically large population.
Next, translate this data into statements of truth about people. Form concrete statements that describe human behaviour at an emotional level. For example, you might see a business traveller working her frequent flier miles, and another identifying quiet places in an airport to recharge her laptop. After synthesising this data, you could arrive at an insight like “business travellers appreciate the game of travelling, and benefit from subtle ways to ‘win’ during their experience.” This isn’t a functional requirement — it is an emotional directive.
What are the key pillars of a design strategy? How is it different from designing digital products versus physical products? The design approach to product management builds upon immersive research in order to develop a provocative point of view about emotion. This process works in developing physical products, digital products, services, and even policies or governance models. It focuses on people, rather than business or technology. It is grounded in empathy.
Jon Kolko Vice-president, consumer design, BlackBoard inc