The most comprehensive collection of Design Principles on the Internet.

823 design principles and counting.

19 Jul 2018

Design principles to evaluate your product

"A company proves that it has a strong creative process by developing successful products repeatedly. We see this in companies like Apple, BMW and Google. Founders such as Steve Jobs formed a corporate culture with an intense focus on creativity and design. This culture highlights two core elements in the creative process: the ideas and the team. The creative process can be described in one sentence: Ideas begin with a small team of creative people at the heart of the company who communicate easily with each other.

To make decisions, we can use these principles as a test by rating a product on a scale from 1 to 10 for each of the principles above. The lowest rating is a 1, and the highest is a 10. Each explanation below comes with examples to give you an idea of how to rate your product. Keep in mind that creative analysis is, ultimately, subjective and personal (like appreciating wine or a painting); therefore, each person’s rankings will be different.

But keep in mind that the purpose of this “test” is to facilitate a thought process that leads to the best product iterations possible. Let’s begin." - Dave Schools

Make sure to check out Dave's Twitter account for tips about entrepreneurship and writing.


The principles

  1. Irreducible Simplicity

    You’ve created a product to meet a need. (If this isn’t true, then stop reading this and first build something helpful.) Now ask yourself, “Does my product have extraneous features that diminish the experience and satisfaction it provides?”

    Take a car. A car is created, in its most basic form, to get you from point A to point B. The audio system doesn’t help you get from point A to point B, right? Therefore, should the audio system be removed for the sake of simplicity? No. The audio system is left in because it makes the experience of getting from point A to point B more satisfying. The goal of any product design is to reduce everything until you reach the point that satisfaction is not sacrificed.

    Apply the principle to each feature of the product on its own. By applying the principle to each feature of your product, the product’s gestalt (or the sum of the parts) will remain simple.

    Now, look at your product and apply the principle of irreducible simplicity:

    • What single problem does it solve clearly and thoroughly?
    • Does each feature solve a single problem clearly and thoroughly?
    • What features can be taken away without sacrificing satisfaction?
  2. Immediate Intuition

    The market share split between Android and iPhone suggests Android is more popular (78% to Apple’s 17.8%), but Apple’s 92% profit share in the smartphone industry suggests a stronger product that people are willing to pay more for. This tension highlights that what is intuitive to me might not be intuitive to you. So, remember that, when designing for intuition, empathize with your target customer.

    Analyze your own product against the principle of immediate intuition using the following questions:

    • How does using it reduce stress?
    • How long would it take someone to fully understand it?
    • In what ways can it be improved?
  3. Beauty Underneath

    The second date

    Let’s say you put your dating hat on (or back on) and take an attractive and interested person out to dinner, sharing wine and having a great time. As the night goes on, it dawns on you that this person has an incredible story, a humble self-regard and a genuine heart for others. You stop seeing their physical attractiveness and are now passionately curious to really get to know this person. Hence, a second date. In the same way, when the user of a product unexpectedly discovers beauty underneath (the hidden value), they will want to continue using the product.

    The lagniappe

    A bad product is one that does exactly what it says — and that’s it, no more. Continuing the date analogy, if you instead found the attractive person to be self-absorbed and gossipy, then you would have ended the night with no desire for a second date. Conversely, a good product does exactly what it says, and then adds a “lagniappe.”

    If you are an entrepreneur, then you must add this French word to your vocabulary. Lagniappe means “an extra bonus or gift.” A lagniappe is the 13th doughnut in a baker’s dozen. It is the warm chocolate-chip cookie waiting for you on the bed of your DoubleTree hotel room.

    To assess your product against the principle of beauty underneath, ask yourself:

    • Does my product have usefulness that is not immediately apparent?
    • Is a hidden gem of value lying below the surface of my product?
    • Does my product have a lagniappe?
  4. Approachable Innovation

    Loudcloud introduced cloud computing five or six years too early; people didn’t get it. The Palm Pilot was a breakthrough in the market for personal digital assistants, but Palm didn’t innovate enough to keep up. Instagram, on the other hand, beautifully reduced the clutter in the social photo-viewing experience.

    These are stories that demonstrate that, for an innovation to be successful, it must be approachably innovative. Loudcloud’s product was too revolutionary, and it scared or confused people. The Palm Pilot became mundane, which bored or annoyed people. Instagram was approachable — falling right in the middle of the boring-scary scale.

    Assess your product against the principle of approachable innovation by asking these questions:

    • What is different about your product from others like it?
    • When you tell others about it, do they understand it right away?
    • Will customers be familiar with at least some elements of your product?
  5. Form And Color Agreement

    It is absolutely critical that form and color agree with a product’s purpose. All products — whether books, cups, apps, clothes — have a form and color for a specific purpose. For example, throughout the iPhone generations, the most visible changes have been in form and color — larger sizes, new colors, rounded edges. The iPhone 6 was very deliberately released with only three colors: gold, silver and space gray.

    Why these colors? Because they express the purpose of the product. If the hue of the gold or silver was a smidge deeper, the color would have said, “flash and glitz,” instead of “intelligence and power.” If you removed the “space” from “space gray,” the color would have said “dull” instead of “imaginative.” A helpful product can be ruined by misaligned form and color. Getting it right is important.

    As a product designer, have you chosen the best form and colors for your product? Ask yourself these questions:

    • Have you researched the emotions behind the colors you’ve chosen?
    • What do the curves, lines, angles, dimensions and textures say about the product?
    • Do the color and form agree with your product’s purpose?
  6. Repeatable Methodology

    Apple discovered that what is critical is not necessarily the product itself, but rather the methodology by which the idea behind it comes to life. In other words, anyone can get lucky and make a good product; but a methodology can produce generations of great products.

    The Wall Street Journal published an article, “After the One-Hit Wonder,” telling the stories of four products that followed a similar pattern. One person gets an idea, executes, experiences rapid growth and makes millions in sales. Then, sales drop off, and the person launches another product, which performs moderately or not well at all.

    This happens because one-hit wonders come not from a methodology, but from a one-off idea of one person.

    Analyze how repeatable your methodology is with these questions:

    • Did the idea come from one person or from a team of people?
    • Will the product continue to satisfy a need in three to five years from now?
    • Is the product multi-generational?
  1. Irreducible Simplicity

    You’ve created a product to meet a need. (If this isn’t true, then stop reading this and first build something helpful.) Now ask yourself, “Does my product have extraneous features that diminish the experience and satisfaction it provides?”

    Take a car. A car is created, in its most basic form, to get you from point A to point B. The audio system doesn’t help you get from point A to point B, right? Therefore, should the audio system be removed for the sake of simplicity? No. The audio system is left in because it makes the experience of getting from point A to point B more satisfying. The goal of any product design is to reduce everything until you reach the point that satisfaction is not sacrificed.

    Apply the principle to each feature of the product on its own. By applying the principle to each feature of your product, the product’s gestalt (or the sum of the parts) will remain simple.

    Now, look at your product and apply the principle of irreducible simplicity:

    • What single problem does it solve clearly and thoroughly?
    • Does each feature solve a single problem clearly and thoroughly?
    • What features can be taken away without sacrificing satisfaction?
  2. Immediate Intuition

    The market share split between Android and iPhone suggests Android is more popular (78% to Apple’s 17.8%), but Apple’s 92% profit share in the smartphone industry suggests a stronger product that people are willing to pay more for. This tension highlights that what is intuitive to me might not be intuitive to you. So, remember that, when designing for intuition, empathize with your target customer.

    Analyze your own product against the principle of immediate intuition using the following questions:

    • How does using it reduce stress?
    • How long would it take someone to fully understand it?
    • In what ways can it be improved?
  3. Beauty Underneath

    The second date

    Let’s say you put your dating hat on (or back on) and take an attractive and interested person out to dinner, sharing wine and having a great time. As the night goes on, it dawns on you that this person has an incredible story, a humble self-regard and a genuine heart for others. You stop seeing their physical attractiveness and are now passionately curious to really get to know this person. Hence, a second date. In the same way, when the user of a product unexpectedly discovers beauty underneath (the hidden value), they will want to continue using the product.

    The lagniappe

    A bad product is one that does exactly what it says — and that’s it, no more. Continuing the date analogy, if you instead found the attractive person to be self-absorbed and gossipy, then you would have ended the night with no desire for a second date. Conversely, a good product does exactly what it says, and then adds a “lagniappe.”

    If you are an entrepreneur, then you must add this French word to your vocabulary. Lagniappe means “an extra bonus or gift.” A lagniappe is the 13th doughnut in a baker’s dozen. It is the warm chocolate-chip cookie waiting for you on the bed of your DoubleTree hotel room.

    To assess your product against the principle of beauty underneath, ask yourself:

    • Does my product have usefulness that is not immediately apparent?
    • Is a hidden gem of value lying below the surface of my product?
    • Does my product have a lagniappe?
  4. Approachable Innovation

    Loudcloud introduced cloud computing five or six years too early; people didn’t get it. The Palm Pilot was a breakthrough in the market for personal digital assistants, but Palm didn’t innovate enough to keep up. Instagram, on the other hand, beautifully reduced the clutter in the social photo-viewing experience.

    These are stories that demonstrate that, for an innovation to be successful, it must be approachably innovative. Loudcloud’s product was too revolutionary, and it scared or confused people. The Palm Pilot became mundane, which bored or annoyed people. Instagram was approachable — falling right in the middle of the boring-scary scale.

    Assess your product against the principle of approachable innovation by asking these questions:

    • What is different about your product from others like it?
    • When you tell others about it, do they understand it right away?
    • Will customers be familiar with at least some elements of your product?
  5. Form And Color Agreement

    It is absolutely critical that form and color agree with a product’s purpose. All products — whether books, cups, apps, clothes — have a form and color for a specific purpose. For example, throughout the iPhone generations, the most visible changes have been in form and color — larger sizes, new colors, rounded edges. The iPhone 6 was very deliberately released with only three colors: gold, silver and space gray.

    Why these colors? Because they express the purpose of the product. If the hue of the gold or silver was a smidge deeper, the color would have said, “flash and glitz,” instead of “intelligence and power.” If you removed the “space” from “space gray,” the color would have said “dull” instead of “imaginative.” A helpful product can be ruined by misaligned form and color. Getting it right is important.

    As a product designer, have you chosen the best form and colors for your product? Ask yourself these questions:

    • Have you researched the emotions behind the colors you’ve chosen?
    • What do the curves, lines, angles, dimensions and textures say about the product?
    • Do the color and form agree with your product’s purpose?
  6. Repeatable Methodology

    Apple discovered that what is critical is not necessarily the product itself, but rather the methodology by which the idea behind it comes to life. In other words, anyone can get lucky and make a good product; but a methodology can produce generations of great products.

    The Wall Street Journal published an article, “After the One-Hit Wonder,” telling the stories of four products that followed a similar pattern. One person gets an idea, executes, experiences rapid growth and makes millions in sales. Then, sales drop off, and the person launches another product, which performs moderately or not well at all.

    This happens because one-hit wonders come not from a methodology, but from a one-off idea of one person.

    Analyze how repeatable your methodology is with these questions:

    • Did the idea come from one person or from a team of people?
    • Will the product continue to satisfy a need in three to five years from now?
    • Is the product multi-generational?

Tags

  • Product Design

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