The making of a good product

When designing a product, we want to make it good. When we buy something, we also want it to be good. Well what then makes a product good? Of course, it becomes subjective because your needs may be different than mine, but I bet neither one of us want a bad product. Here are some things that could turn a bad product good or a good product bad.

User Experience
What are your overall thoughts of any given product? Recently, I purchased a Jeep Grand Cherokee which is by far the nicest vehicle I've ever owned. Little touches that the designers and engineers put obvious thought into are apparent throughout. The silliest is a little cutout from the middle console to run a phone charging cable instead of pinching it off by the console's lid. But that little thing, among others, increases the experience and makes you think that everything else is well thought out. My old car had unusable cup holders, too shallow, too wide and non adjustable. Turn a corner and you were sure to dump your drink. This experience can lead you to wonder what else they didn't think of.

When working on conference tables for example, I spend time sitting at mockups, testing different edges and playing with the overall table shape. With smaller products, I 3d print assemblies to check form factor and scale. One project I worked on was designing an office into an already existing building shell. We took masking tape and taped off the room and door locations so we could get an idea of building flow. These tricks help get the product or project moving in the right direction from the start and can help increase the user's experience in the end.

Look and Feel
What does it feel like? Now that I've switched to the iPhone I understand what the fuss has been all about with them. Sometimes the look of the product can outweigh every other factor in a person's choice to buy it. There was a ton of hate regarding how the camera lens on the iPhone sticks out a millimeter (ok, I haven't actually measured it) on the latest generation. Would the user prefer less features for form? In this case, quite possibly. As designers, we need to know the balance between look, feel, form and function.

Price is a big factor. You can have the best functioning product in the world, but if no one can afford it, what's the point? On the other hand, a cheap product can make the user wonder if it's any good or were there shortcuts to the manufacturing process, etc.

The Market
Is the market ready for your product? Sometimes the market needs educated as too often industries get caught in a rut by there only being a couple of players in the game. The word "disruptive" gets used too often by companies providing no real product enhancement and that word can be a negative in the "good old boy" industries anyway. Being too disruptive can cause major confusion with end users. If you have a true new product, you must simplify your message and get that message to your market.

As designers, we must know that we're never going to please everyone and we shouldn't design things completely around someone's subjective opinion. We need to balance the above items, among other things to create the best possible product. Often, people will be negative to your design for this reason or that. Remember that someone's subjective opinion is not fact, it's just an opinion.

Keep making cool shit

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