10 Principles of Consumer Product Design

by on February 25, 2010
in design

If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough – Albert Einstein

  1. Be both a revolution and an evolution. Revolutionary solutions solve problems that don’t have solutions. Evolutionary solutions must be twice as good as exiting solutions. Ensure you’re doing both.

  2. 80% at 100%. Delight 80% of your customers 100% of the time. Trying to make everybody happy displeases everybody equally, and it isn’t possible.

  3. Handle failure gracefully. The greatest determination of character is failure. Systems fail, anticipate this. Handling system failure well will increase customer satisfaction more than the addition of any feature.

  4. Aesthetics improves usability and trust. If it looks good it’s easier to use – even if it’s not. If it looks good it’s better engineered – even if it’s not. Aesthetics improves usability and trust in any system.

  5. Simple or flexible. Embrace the tension between simplicity and flexibility but decide at the beginning which is more important as they’re mutually exclusive goals. You can’t have both without displeasing everyone equally. See point two.

  6. Cost vs. benefit. Time is money. An activity will only be pursued if the perceived benefits are equal to or greater than the costs. The biggest cost to consumers with any system is time.

  7. Understand value. Value in this context is a vehicle of exchange. The customer is exchanging revenue for one or more of the following:
    • Time
    • Security
    • Convenience (different than time)
    • Entertainment
    • Prestige
  8. Deliver value by:
    • Significantly reducing customer pain
    • Significantly returning the customers time
    • Consolidating multiple solutions/workarounds into one solution without complexity
    • Requiring little to no previous knowledge to consume
    • Requiring little to no maintenance to consume
    • Not creating new problems
  9. Emotions matter. Customers don’t want to feel stupid, confused, or angry… customers want to feel competent, understood, and satisfied. Ensure people feel good about your solution, otherwise you’re creating new problems, see point eight.

  10. Be taken for granted. Your goal isn’t to be noticed, it’s to go unnoticed. In delivering a system the highest compliment is to be so intuitive that the system goes unnoticed.