Good design is good business

Apple has proved it numerous times, but there are still peoplewho believe that if “it” works, and it sells, then it is sufficient.

Enterprise software products primarily were ahead of time, as in they solved one BIG technology problem that such customers were facing. It is like the local trains in Mumbai — they run on time all the time, and solves users biggest commute problem; so they dont care if everything else connected to the journey is raw, bad, or messy.

When two products come into the market with the same features solving the same BIG problem, that’s where the troubles begin. Because you are an early mover you get the advantage. But new customers might want to try something that is more productive and usable. Enterprise customers behave differently than consumers, but that “might” is a strong unseen element. When it hits real, many mighty #1 players have fallen.

I have worked in a company that had a 70% global market share and got too cushioned to move into adjacent markets only to fall down to a 5% market in 3 years, and shut shop later.

What do these succesful companies do? You look for new markets (adjacent or otherwise) with the same stuff, or make your stuff better so that you automatically becomes first choice in adjacent markets. The question that product management face all the time is how to make this better — add the missing or new features, or clean up the mess in the old ones, or both.

For the seemingly impossible scenario above, one needs to have the vision and patience to do it. And good design is a key element there. Coming back to the iPod: the technology — hdd, software, controls existed, so did others who played music, but it is the easy and most probable controls and making a legal music store – the overall user experience – that made it a hit.

Yes, technology innovation is very important and cool, but product innovations arent any different. In the end, the glory is the same, especially when the coffers are brimming with gold!

Good design is good business. Amen.

Is design someone’s forte?

These questions were taken from an HCI discussion group: Who can make a good designer? What is the process of making a designer? They were raised in connection with IITG’s Bachelor of Design program.

All of the members agree that artists and designers require a different aptitude than for technology. But then how can anyone clearing Joint Entrance Exam for IIT – a tough physics, chemistry, mathematics test – join a design program? Is BDes yet another degree? Some designers scoffed at this selection process. Some defended it sighting a name or two. I hope they dont take the flame bait 🙂

While there can always be exceptions (systems will always have some mavericks who fall through unhurt), this brought a good thought into play: The process determines the average value and the perception. This average can dip if the process is not in place, or is not right. We need to push for the right process, and not take exception for a rule.

This is true not just for design, but for anything else in life. I am not sure if you see it, but I do — for me after all, design in life.

Blind Motor Works?

Seen the latest Honda CR-V? I wish I never did. It looks horrifying. If you see one, you will also pray that you never had. (Hence the absence of links or images here).

Call me old fashioned. But if this is where the future-proof cars are headed, I should rather grab the current – dated, they say – Adventure before FIAT puts eyebrows and bangles on it. Come on, is there anyone who prefers the looks of a 2005 Bangled Beamer (banged is much like it) to a 1998 or a 2002? Probably it was a bright summer day and the bean counter folks were wearing dark shades when they looked at it. Blind Motor Works?


But seriously, ATMs are bringing about a revolution in society. Consider this – at ICICI’s air conditioned fancy office with English speaking help desk officers, the lower class people do not get equal treatment if at all they walk in. At an ATM, it doesn’t matter whether you are a rag picker or one who doesn’t understand English, you get the exact same treatment that is given to the saab who lands in a Merc. You are a customer and you get the same respect regardless of what you wear or talk.

As I said, there is a big revolution happening out here in how people define ATMs. For some it is a vault where they can deposit their daily wages at the end of the day. No more ‘alcoholic-husband-takes-all-the-savings’ scenario. And people are taking note — there is a move (and research) in Karnataka to pack ATMs with soiled notes, so that villagers are more comfortable and identify with it. There are studies going on about how to reduce the procedure for depositing money, so that people have to write the least number of words.

People take technology for granted, but for some it is giving a new life altogether.