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Why Products Suck…

…heißt eine neue Serie von Artikeln, in denen Dan Saffer typische Probleme im Produktdesign anspricht und Lösungen vorschlägt. Themen waren bisher:

#1 Arbitrary Decisions

Arbitrary decisions are the death of good design, especially when they are made by someone outside the product team. With rare exceptions, the pet feature(s) of the CEO, VP of Marketing, or Director of Technology will often do more to clutter and confuse a design than improve it. […]
When someone makes an arbitrary decision, try to figure out (or simply ask) them what problem they are trying to solve and why they think that solution is the right one. Often this will allow you to get to the root of the issue, and perhaps even reframe it so that a solution can be found that makes sense, can be objectively justified (perhaps through design research), and that meets the design principles.

#2 Not Enough Iteration

You seldom get the design of a product right the first time. Your first impulse is going to likely be the obvious choice, or something you think the organization will approve. But the best solution often comes after a few trials, after making variations and seeing if and how they work.

#3 Organizational Needs Trump User Needs

Every product is a balancing act between what the organization (often a business) needs (usually to make money) vs. what a user needs (to get a task done/find information/be entertained, etc.). When the organization’s needs overwhelm the user’s needs (and thus affects the product’s desirability) the product sucks. […]
The solution to this starts in the product strategy. The right business model needs to be implemented and/or devised to both support business and user needs. Users will pay a premium for a better, higher quality product that does a better job serving their needs, for instance.

#4 They are Ugly

Anyone who has ever spent time (hours, days, weeks, months) creating and (more importantly, refining) a visual or industrial design knows how difficult it can be. It takes practice and training, experience, and taste. A poor font, a button slightly off, the wrong material choice, a garish shade of color can ruin a perfectly fine design. […] And here’s the real problem: ugly products not only coarsen the world, they are more difficult to use. […]
Give visual and industrial design the time they deserve and not just at the end of the product’s design cycle either. Aesthetic considerations should be part of the discussions from the beginning of the design process: in strategy. This ensures an alignment between the different disciplines, not only in designing the product, but also in manufacturing and marketing it as well.

#5 Wrong Technology

Too often, the technology of a product is chosen before the design has happened, before the needs of users have been ascertained. This can lead to products with usability issues (at best) or that are useless (at worst). […]
tart with the tasks that need to be performed, and the context in which they will be used. Then choose the technology that will best support the activities and the environment. (Of course, this means designers being able to exert considerable influence over the production and development of the product, which often doesn’t happen. Which is itself another reason Why Products Suck.)

Update:

#6 Not Testing or Ignoring Findings

The sad fact of the matter is that many products are released without a single potential user ever trying to use it. The result are products that make sense from inside the company, but not from the users’ point of view, or products that aren’t ready for use, effectively releasing “alpha” or “beta” products and having users work out (or around) the flaws. This might be an effective business strategy (to get your product out faster), but not necessarily a strong product strategy.

#7 The Core Concept is Buried in Features

All products should have one task they are best at, whether it be cleaning dishes, sending Tweets, or listening to music. If that central task is so over-encumbered by features that make the task too complicated to do, or the task is constantly being interrupted by other non-essential functions, or the product has so many useless functions that you cannot tell what it is even supposed to be, that product sucks.
Instead of adding non-core features, companies should be focused on ruthlessly making the central task the best it can be. There is almost always room for improvement, and if you don’t believe that, you probably haven’t been testing enough or doing any field research to uncover customer’s behaviors and unmet needs. If another feature is becoming prominent to the product, perhaps it is time to create another product for that core task.
The features of a product should support the story of the product, not drive it. Products need to demonstrate their differentiators clearly: I’m what you need because there is nothing else like me on the market. I do this one task better than anyone else.

Update:

#8 Starvation of Resources

For the most part, those who design and build products want them to be good. They want people to buy and use them. They want them to be enjoyed and maybe even win an award or two. They want to make money and be successful. But they are constrained (or seemingly constrained) by time, money, personnel. Resources, in other words. Too few resources can choke an otherwise promising product. […]
You can ensure you get the proper resources by demonstrating (with numbers and metrics if you must) the proper importance of the project to the organization. Of course, that means you too must come to terms with what its proper importance is; after running the numbers, you might realize it isn’t nearly as high-priority as you thought.

#9 They Don’t Fulfill a Need

Just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should. It’s becoming less and less difficult to manufacture and develop products. Stories abound of people building new web products overnight or in a week. Rapid manufacturing techniques mean you can get physical products built in days, not months. This doesn’t mean these products are any good, of course, just that it can be done. […]
Not being able to articulate succinctly why a customer would use your product and what need it fills in their lives is an enormous failure of product strategy. Not a line of code, not a sketch of form, not a chart in a marketing plan should ever be started without this crucial piece of knowledge.

#10 Product Hygiene is Ignored

The problem arises when, in the quest for more features, hygiene is ignored. Basic activities are ignored, or the product is sluggish and unresponsive. We have to make sure the Buddha Nature of the product is protected. The product should do the simple tasks it is supposed to do as well as possible. […] Reliability and responsiveness are basic qualities that have to come before any additional features be piled on. […]
No matter how many additional features a product has, no matter how beautiful its form and interface, the product that can’t do its basic functions has got to suck.

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