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16 Aug 2021

10 more Design Principles for Better Products

This post collects the ten design principles featured in Bressler groups Design defined volume 2, with plenty of links out to more info and, hopefully, a whole lot of inspiration. It represents the span of Bressler groups disciplines, from user research and design strategy to electrical and software engineering.

Also check out volume 1 of these principles.

Source: Design Defined, v2: 10 More Design Principles for Better Products


The principles

  1. Brand consistency

    People often think of brand consistency as it relates to the colors, logos, terminology, and tone used in advertising and communications, but it’s just as important for designers of physical products to consider brand consistency as it relates to form, finish, usability, and user experience.

    • Consistent user experiences build confidence and trust
    • Brand Consistency is a key driver behind purchasing decisions. When user experience remains similar, it’s easier and more appealing for users to stick with the same brand
    • Everyone on your team should be involved in creating branded user experiences and interactions
  2. Forecasting and backcasting

    Forecasting predicts probable future scenarios based on trend analysis and helps companies determine their ideal outcome. Backcasting works in reverse to plan the steps it will take to get there.

    • Forecasting and Backcasting provide a solid structure to support big, strategic thinking
    • Forecasting and Backcasting help companies move forward in leaps and bounds, rather than steps
  3. Hick's law

    The law explains why having too many options negatively impacts a user’s experience and makes it harder to complete a task. It’s a reminder not to overload a user with choices, and it’s one reason that well-designed remotes have fewer buttons.

    • The law best applies to simple, direct tasks, as opposed to complex ones
    • The principle is especially important when it comes to time-sensitive tasks, like pressing a panic button
    • Hick’s Law can make medical devices safer for caregivers and patients
  4. Over-the-air updates

    Devices capable of OTAU require more work upfront. Electrical engineers have to build devices to be smart enough to detect firmware versions, safely download, update, and go back to work.

    • OTAU are a pathway for manufacturers to update a product digitally, without having to mess with the hardware
    • Wireless software updates can add new features, fix bugs, and upgrade security
    • During Hurricane Irma in 2017, Tesla shipped an update to drivers in Florida to unlock their full battery capacity, giving them another 30 to 40 miles of driving range to help them escape the storm
  5. Radical innovation

    If your design isn’t pushing the limits of what’s possible or challenging conventional wisdom about what a product can be, it’s not radical innovation. To get there, sometimes you need to break your process, throw away your plans, and acquire a counterintuitive mindset.

    • Radical Innovation requires curiosity, analytical skills, experience, faith, and perseverance
    • Startups are better at this than established companies because they don’t have the burden of conventional wisdom
    • Radical Innovation is a delicate balance of science, business, and imagination
  6. Steeple

    STEEPLE stands for social, technological, economic, environmental, political, legal, and ethical. The framework pushes us to consider how each factor will impact society — and how products and services will fit into future scenarios.

    • Humans have a tendency to believe the future will be much like the present. STEEPLE helps us see changes as they’re emerging
    • For maximum benefit, it helps to combine STEEPLE with tools like “scenario mapping”
    • STEEPLE encourages an outward-oriented perspective that surveys the broader socio-cultural context of your industry, rather than what’s happening with your product alone
  7. Tell, don't ask

    Tell, Don’t Ask is a modular approach, which makes it easier to test and maintain embedded devices.

    • TDA is especially well-suited for IoT devices
    • By embedding the decision-making in the power subsystem, Tell, Don’t Ask makes it less likely that those values will be inadvertently modified or left out of future maintenance
    • This approach can free the designer to focus on elegant and stable top-level design
  8. Design for misuse

    No matter how capable users are most of the time, mistakes happen. By predicting why a user might misuse a product (e.g. a sleep-deprived doctor using a medical device), designers can add safeguards and workflows to minimize the chance of failure.

    • The more difficult it is to use a product, the greater the chance of error. Keep it simple
    • Designers can conduct user research to discover how people are likely to misuse a product
    • Design for misuse is less about modifying users’ behavior and more about allowing a tool to continue to be functional, given the likelihood of certain behavior
  9. Art of moderating

    In the generative research phase, moderators seek insights to drive key design decisions. In the evaluative research phase, moderators are looking to learn what users think of the product before “design freeze” sets in.

    • A successful moderator breaks down barriers between them and their participants so they’re no longer seen as a moderator but as someone who’s easy to talk to
    • Allow for “awkward silences.” These pauses provide space for participants to think and provide more productive feedback
    • Focus on what people do, not necessarily what they say. The former is typically more telling
  10. Accessible technology

    Designers should begin thinking about accessibility on day one. Mobile, voice, and “interface-less” applications should consider accessibility before the first line of code is written or the first wireframe is constructed.

    • Products designed with accessibility in mind provide benefits to all users
    • It’s important to include people with disabilities in your user personas and testing
    • Although the legal definition is currently focused on the web, accessible tech does not stop there

1. Brand consistency

People often think of brand consistency as it relates to the colors, logos, terminology, and tone used in advertising and communications, but it’s just as important for designers of physical products to consider brand consistency as it relates to form, finish, usability, and user experience.

  • Consistent user experiences build confidence and trust
  • Brand Consistency is a key driver behind purchasing decisions. When user experience remains similar, it’s easier and more appealing for users to stick with the same brand
  • Everyone on your team should be involved in creating branded user experiences and interactions

2. Forecasting and backcasting

Forecasting predicts probable future scenarios based on trend analysis and helps companies determine their ideal outcome. Backcasting works in reverse to plan the steps it will take to get there.

  • Forecasting and Backcasting provide a solid structure to support big, strategic thinking
  • Forecasting and Backcasting help companies move forward in leaps and bounds, rather than steps

3. Hick's law

The law explains why having too many options negatively impacts a user’s experience and makes it harder to complete a task. It’s a reminder not to overload a user with choices, and it’s one reason that well-designed remotes have fewer buttons.

  • The law best applies to simple, direct tasks, as opposed to complex ones
  • The principle is especially important when it comes to time-sensitive tasks, like pressing a panic button
  • Hick’s Law can make medical devices safer for caregivers and patients

4. Over-the-air updates

Devices capable of OTAU require more work upfront. Electrical engineers have to build devices to be smart enough to detect firmware versions, safely download, update, and go back to work.

  • OTAU are a pathway for manufacturers to update a product digitally, without having to mess with the hardware
  • Wireless software updates can add new features, fix bugs, and upgrade security
  • During Hurricane Irma in 2017, Tesla shipped an update to drivers in Florida to unlock their full battery capacity, giving them another 30 to 40 miles of driving range to help them escape the storm

5. Radical innovation

If your design isn’t pushing the limits of what’s possible or challenging conventional wisdom about what a product can be, it’s not radical innovation. To get there, sometimes you need to break your process, throw away your plans, and acquire a counterintuitive mindset.

  • Radical Innovation requires curiosity, analytical skills, experience, faith, and perseverance
  • Startups are better at this than established companies because they don’t have the burden of conventional wisdom
  • Radical Innovation is a delicate balance of science, business, and imagination

6. Steeple

STEEPLE stands for social, technological, economic, environmental, political, legal, and ethical. The framework pushes us to consider how each factor will impact society — and how products and services will fit into future scenarios.

  • Humans have a tendency to believe the future will be much like the present. STEEPLE helps us see changes as they’re emerging
  • For maximum benefit, it helps to combine STEEPLE with tools like “scenario mapping”
  • STEEPLE encourages an outward-oriented perspective that surveys the broader socio-cultural context of your industry, rather than what’s happening with your product alone

7. Tell, don't ask

Tell, Don’t Ask is a modular approach, which makes it easier to test and maintain embedded devices.

  • TDA is especially well-suited for IoT devices
  • By embedding the decision-making in the power subsystem, Tell, Don’t Ask makes it less likely that those values will be inadvertently modified or left out of future maintenance
  • This approach can free the designer to focus on elegant and stable top-level design

8. Design for misuse

No matter how capable users are most of the time, mistakes happen. By predicting why a user might misuse a product (e.g. a sleep-deprived doctor using a medical device), designers can add safeguards and workflows to minimize the chance of failure.

  • The more difficult it is to use a product, the greater the chance of error. Keep it simple
  • Designers can conduct user research to discover how people are likely to misuse a product
  • Design for misuse is less about modifying users’ behavior and more about allowing a tool to continue to be functional, given the likelihood of certain behavior

9. Art of moderating

In the generative research phase, moderators seek insights to drive key design decisions. In the evaluative research phase, moderators are looking to learn what users think of the product before “design freeze” sets in.

  • A successful moderator breaks down barriers between them and their participants so they’re no longer seen as a moderator but as someone who’s easy to talk to
  • Allow for “awkward silences.” These pauses provide space for participants to think and provide more productive feedback
  • Focus on what people do, not necessarily what they say. The former is typically more telling

10. Accessible technology

Designers should begin thinking about accessibility on day one. Mobile, voice, and “interface-less” applications should consider accessibility before the first line of code is written or the first wireframe is constructed.

  • Products designed with accessibility in mind provide benefits to all users
  • It’s important to include people with disabilities in your user personas and testing
  • Although the legal definition is currently focused on the web, accessible tech does not stop there

Tags

  • Product Design

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