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Does the World Really Need Designers?

July 28, 2016 by Hyun Lee

Design and designers are essential in creating a product – whether it is software, physical products, websites or mobile apps – that will be successful in the marketplace.

Designers should be integrated thoroughout the product planning and development phases. Many businesses however, have missed the fact that designers are the key ingredient in designing products that create desirability, usability and feasibility.

Learning the Hard Way

Even companies with a solid reputation for good design have occasionally overlooked this reality. For example, Google released Wave back in 2009. It was an online platform that was supposed to improve project collaboration. Do you remember how excited you were just to get an invite to use Wave? I know I was. Unfortunately, the user experience of the app was somehow forgotten by the developers. It was just too overloaded with features that no one knew what to do with the tool. From a design perspective, it was a disaster. However, Wave was just an iteration to one of their many amazing apps available today. Even Google gained experience through their learnings and continues to succeed.

Another hard lesson learned is from Apple. Prior to the success of Apple TV today, they attempted to produce computer/TV “hybrid” into one body called the Macintosh TV. It was released in 1993. The problem was the product was not a well-functioning computer nor a proper usable television. Macintosh TV had bit of an identity crisis. Due to its poor usability and the unattractive design, Apple only produced 10,000 units. Even a seemingly infallible company like Apple can learn from their mistakes and to become one of the most influential tech company to date.

These are perfect examples of “build everything on the checklist” but also cases in which the product teams failed to understand the true needs of the user. In general, Wave and Macintosh TV created excitement but possibly did not do thorough user research and so failed to deliver true value to customers. It is quite possible that they had designers from the very beginning of the process but both of the products feel like an experiment. In general, having designers deeply involved from the early part of the creation process is essential in uncovering what users want to do, why they would use it, and how best to use it.

The New Era of Modern Designers 

Designers are no longer just “pixel pushers”. Modern designers are problem solvers or, if you will, Design Thinkers. Therefore, designers are now more than ever a great asset to have on board from the beginning of the product creation process because modern designers:

  1. Understand the basics of human psychology, especially how people perceive and interact with their surroundings, and how that should influence the design
  2. Make design decisions based on proven UX methods (research to usability analysis)
  3. Involve stakeholders like CIOs, product managers, developers, designers, sales, marketing and end users right from the beginning to collect feedback to take appropriate design steps
  4. Believe that collaborating in a physically creative and functional place will have a positive impact on successfully designing a product
  5. Do not believe in designing the perfect product on the first try, but learn from failing early and often
  6. Are listeners. They collect good and bad feedback to iterate as necessary to create the best product design and experience possible
  7. Spend time with the end user to identify root causes
  8. Constantly reinvent themselves. They are always learning and are never satisfied with their current skill set
  9. Take care of their clients’ needs directly rather than through a manager
  10. Do not fixate on popular design trends but instead base it on user’s needs and research

Innovate, Not Stagnate

Until recently, more businesses have taken notice of this fact and started to invest in getting more designers involved early in the creation process. As more and more products come into the market, the emergence of new technologies and constantly shifting demands from customers, force businesses to ask questions like: How do you visually stand out among the crowd? How do you solve usability problems? Does the product’s user experience benefit the user?

With an overabundance of unusable or difficult-to-use products in the world, designers are needed more than ever to bring harmony to the design and overall experience.

The value of good design is the increased probability of success. Investing in designers for the future of your business will create innovation and help you become the leader in the market. Hiring designers may not save the world, but at least your products will look and feel great to your customers. But then again, a well-designed product can play a role in contributing to “save the world” (add wink here) after all. So to get the full value from great design, you need to hire designers.

What is your opinion on value of designers? At what stage should designers get involved? Tell us your thoughts in the comment, I would love to hear your perspective.

This story originally appeared on the SAP User Experience Community website.

Top image via Shutterstock

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