Prioritizing design in successful, legacy applications

25 Aug 2007 - 9:45pm
7 years ago
7 replies
432 reads
russwilson
2005

A good friend of mine and product manager at our company asked
if he could post an entry on my new blog. I said "sure", and then he
smiled and said "can I write about anything?" And I said "as long as
it relates to design and isn't R-rated".

So his post came to my email tonight and I posted it. In a nutshell --
"sure, design is nice, but how does it affect the bottom line if at all?
I'm not sure we really need software design..."

Now, I can tell you that he's asking somewhat as devil's advocate
because I know that he wouldn't throw me/us to the dogs, and I know he
values design but may be having difficulty justifying his intuition. But he's also
echoing the sentiments of some of our sales, marketing, and engineering
staff...

Dan S., Dave M., Andrei, Randolph B. (if you're listening), anyone... would
you consider commenting on my blog?

http://www.dexodesign.com/2007/08/prioritizing-design-in-successful.html

Best regards,
Russ Wilson

Comments

26 Aug 2007 - 9:47am
Faith Peterson
2007

Russell, that's an interesting post. I hope you dont mind if I bring comment
to the list. Because I'm very interested in what others think about the
issues your friend raised even if they might not comment at your blog.

Your friend's post seems to equate design with the "sexy" slick UI -
aesthetic appeal and bells and whistles - whlie engineering turns out the
pragmatic features customers ask for and like, even if not "designed" - that
is, without the participation of a product designer.

As a product designer, I consider it my job 1) to know or find out what
pragmatic needs current and prospective customers have, before they getting
around to asking for them if possible, then 2) to try to present features
that meet those needs for use in the application in the "best" way for
users, the product, and my company - and only lastly am I concerned with 3)
visual appeal or "sexiness." If I do include some "sexy" recommendation in a
design, it's grounded in 1 and 2 above, never gratuitous slickness.

For me, domain knowledge, keeping up with industry, technology, and
competitive trends, understanding what director and higher level managers
need, are essential parts of the product design role. In my job, without the
ability to identify and fulfill concrete business needs, all I know about
interaction design and usability is pretty meaningless. I should say I work
on an enterprise application and that we are a small enough shop that
we require "specializing generalists" in both engineering and design.

So my job is all about 1) function, then 2) form - and we have a dedicated
visual designer to deal solely with 3) visual appeal. Your friend's "devil's
advocate" position paints designers as all about visual appeal then form
over function, if they get around to function at all. I wonder where others
on this list find the balance in their jobs lies.

--
Faith Peterson
f.a.peterson at gmail.com
Schaumburg, IL
http://www.linkedin.com/in/fpeterson

On 8/25/07, Wilson, Russell <Russell.Wilson at netqos.com> wrote:
>
> ....So his post came to my email tonight and I posted it. In a nutshell
> --
> "sure, design is nice, but how does it affect the bottom line if at all?
> I'm not sure we really need software design..."
>
> ....Dan S., Dave M., Andrei, Randolph B. (if you're listening), anyone...
> would
> you consider commenting on my blog?
>
> http://www.dexodesign.com/2007/08/prioritizing-design-in-successful.html

26 Aug 2007 - 1:54pm
Dave Malouf
2005

Here's what I posted on the blog:

Russel asked me to post a comment about this article and I really
couldn't get through it. I've been doing Product Design in the
enterprise space for way too long to really have patience for this
sort of narrow version of what design is and what value it adds. It
demonstrates how the Apple effect is probably doing some damage to
design in these spheres when people only look at the skin deep
successes of Apple instead of the real successes which are all about
business and less about fluff and oos! and ahs! The oos and ahs are
just marketing.

Design is process, it is not result. Design does not lead with a
result in mind and further if done correctly is a discipline of
communication.

When people look at design this narrowly, I really just find it hard
not to roll my eyes.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://beta.ixda.org/discuss?post=19782

26 Aug 2007 - 2:29pm
Mark Schraad
2006

I had a similar reaction, but am not sure it is the fault of business
or Apple, but maybe the design profession.

Curiously, I keep trying to reload the page and no comments are
showing - it must be moderated.

Mark

On Aug 26, 2007, at 2:54 PM, David Malouf wrote:

> Here's what I posted on the blog:
>
> Russel asked me to post a comment about this article and I really
> couldn't get through it. I've been doing Product Design in the
> enterprise space for way too long to really have patience for this
> sort of narrow version of what design is and what value it adds. It
> demonstrates how the Apple effect is probably doing some damage to
> design in these spheres when people only look at the skin deep
> successes of Apple instead of the real successes which are all about
> business and less about fluff and oos! and ahs! The oos and ahs are
> just marketing.
>
> Design is process, it is not result. Design does not lead with a
> result in mind and further if done correctly is a discipline of
> communication.
>
> When people look at design this narrowly, I really just find it hard
> not to roll my eyes.
>
>
> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
> Posted from the new ixda.org
> http://beta.ixda.org/discuss?post=19782
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://beta.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://beta.ixda.org/help
> Unsubscribe ................ http://beta.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> Questions .................. list at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://beta.ixda.org

27 Aug 2007 - 12:45am
cfmdesigns
2004

On Aug 26, 2007, at 11:54 AM, David Malouf wrote:

> Here's what I posted on the blog:
>
> Russel asked me to post a comment about this article and I really
> couldn't get through it. I've been doing Product Design in the
> enterprise space for way too long to really have patience for this
> sort of narrow version of what design is and what value it adds. It
> demonstrates how the Apple effect is probably doing some damage to
> design in these spheres when people only look at the skin deep
> successes of Apple instead of the real successes which are all about
> business and less about fluff and oos! and ahs! The oos and ahs are
> just marketing.
>
> Design is process, it is not result. Design does not lead with a
> result in mind and further if done correctly is a discipline of
> communication.

But in all your frustration and eye-rolling, you didn't answer his
question. What *does* is contribute to the bottom line? How do you
quantify the value?

One thing that I recognize for myself is that I don't make purchasing
decisions (or simply software use decisions, in terms of freeware and
shareware to try) in a vacuum. I rely *heavily* on formal reviews
and informal blog reviews and sometimes on personal interactions. If
"design" has properly gone into a product, that will echo its way
through those reviews, and in reverse, if design is lacking, I will
either never hear about the product to start with, or everything I
hear will be coated with "This product has some good strengths, but
it's handicapped by poor design. Wait for the next version, or try
something else."

So there's one answer: good design affects who will talk about your
product and how they will talk it up, and *that* affect the bottom
line, both for the good and for the bad.

-- Jim Drew
cfmdesigns at earthlink.net
http://www.soundskinky.com/blog/

27 Aug 2007 - 1:02am
russwilson
2005

Many thanks to all that commented so far. Yes the comments are moderated and I was briefly
away. All comments should be up and visible now (including my own!).

________________________________

From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com on behalf of Mark Schraad
Sent: Sun 8/26/2007 2:29 PM
To: David Malouf
Cc: discuss at lists.interactiondesigners.com
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Prioritizing design in successful,legacy applications

I had a similar reaction, but am not sure it is the fault of business
or Apple, but maybe the design profession.

Curiously, I keep trying to reload the page and no comments are
showing - it must be moderated.

Mark

On Aug 26, 2007, at 2:54 PM, David Malouf wrote:

> Here's what I posted on the blog:
>
> Russel asked me to post a comment about this article and I really
> couldn't get through it. I've been doing Product Design in the
> enterprise space for way too long to really have patience for this
> sort of narrow version of what design is and what value it adds. It
> demonstrates how the Apple effect is probably doing some damage to
> design in these spheres when people only look at the skin deep
> successes of Apple instead of the real successes which are all about
> business and less about fluff and oos! and ahs! The oos and ahs are
> just marketing.
>
> Design is process, it is not result. Design does not lead with a
> result in mind and further if done correctly is a discipline of
> communication.
>
> When people look at design this narrowly, I really just find it hard
> not to roll my eyes.
>
>
> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
> Posted from the new ixda.org
> http://beta.ixda.org/discuss?post=19782
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://beta.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://beta.ixda.org/help
> Unsubscribe ................ http://beta.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> Questions .................. list at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://beta.ixda.org <http://beta.ixda.org/>

________________________________________________________________
Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
List Guidelines ............ http://beta.ixda.org/guidelines
List Help .................. http://beta.ixda.org/help
Unsubscribe ................ http://beta.ixda.org/unsubscribe
Questions .................. list at ixda.org
Home ....................... http://beta.ixda.org <http://beta.ixda.org/>

28 Aug 2007 - 9:26am
jrrogan
2005

Question Regarding Enterprise SW:
"sure, design is nice, but how does it affect the bottom line if at all?
I'm not sure we really need software design..."

Actual Case which I'm working on:
Large Enterprise SW Application Suite, (more then 700 k users), which is now
being redesigned from 1. Graphically,
2. Organizational
3. Interactively

The reason for the redesing is to "Sell" the app to more organizations, (get
more $$$ = better bottom line).

Why do people buy better "designed SW", with design being from a UI
perspective...

People are emotional creatures, bosses like to buy good looking SW, (this is
no joke, contracts are comming in quicker for us with the better look then
they did with the old look, and the basic functionality is virtually the
same). As well when end users get a say in the purchase process, they seem
to appreciate astetics a lot, (it actually makes them happy/smile on first
look of the app).

This is basic business theory "products that appeal emotionally tend to have
greater success", your friend is asking less then top notch business
questions if this is a big suprise to him.

30 Aug 2007 - 2:25pm
DrWex
2006

You may put this comment on your blog if you like

On 8/27/07, Jim Drew <cfmdesigns at earthlink.net> wrote:
> But in all your frustration and eye-rolling, you didn't answer his
> question. What *does* is contribute to the bottom line? How do you
> quantify the value?

Design - good design - contributes to the bottom line in two ways:
- the happy customer
- the repeat customer

A well-designed product will please people, whether through aesthetic
appreciation or the fit of function to need, or by delightful surprise
at the forethought that design embeds into the way that functions are
performed.

Pleased customers are (finally being recognized as) extremely valuable
business assets. They tell people about their experiences and spread
knowledge and reputation. Pleased customers want to share their
pleasure so they encourage their friends to try and buy the product.
"Viral marketing" is a dreadful buzzphrase but it points to a very
real phenomenon. Conversely, bad buzz can kill a product, no matter
how technically superior it may be.

Second, and in some cases more important, customers who experience
good design tend to come back to the source of that design for the new
version, for the upgrade, or for the next product they're going to
buy. In all businesses there is a "cost of acquisition" - what you
have to pay to get that new person to make that first purchase. In
some businesses the cost of acquisition is so high that the company
pretty much loses money on the first sale. It's only on second and
subsequent sales that a company starts to realize real profit because
all those "sunk" costs of acquisition are already paid.

If the business produces badly designed products that give lousy user
experience then people will go elsewhere for their next purchase and
the business will forever be paying acquisition costs for every
one-time customer.

How do you measure it? The equivalent question is how do you measure
the value of marketing. Mostly you don't. You can measure the value
of specific ad campaigns via various tracking techniques; likewise,
you can measure the value of specific design decisions by things like
user testing. But measuring the overall value of quality design isn't
really possible because you can't set up comparable situations
(product A was crap; we put all the designers on product B).
Likewise, you can't really measure the value of specific economic
strategies, education strategies, and so on. You look at aggregates
and overall trends and in particular you look at what happens if you
neglect it. From a business perspective neglecting quality
user-centered design is like neglecting marketing.

Best regards,
--Alan

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