User Centric design

I’m at d.construct 2007 in Brighton and Peter Merholz, president of Adaptive Path is speaking. He discusses the problem of design as a pyramid with technology at the bottom, features in the middle, and at the top experience. Too often companies stop at either technology or features but it is experience (elegant simple solutions to complex products) is what marks out the great products. Apple famously exemplifies this, but “even” Microsoft is “getting it” with the latest version of Office (though as a Mac user he hasn’t personally tried it!)

Thank God for the wii, he says – “now I don’t just have to keep pointing to the ipod as a great example of user experience”.

Products are people too, he says. There’s a lot of research which shows that people interact with products the same way they do with other people. TiVo and Wii both have personalities provided by the manufacturers. We want to make cool products so what is it that makes people cool? They have integrity. The answer is what Tim O’Reilly as “designing from the outside in”. You need an “experience vision” – Kodak’s “you press the button, we do the rest” from 1880.

Palm succeeded where all others failed because it had a clear vision of where it was going – it designed the experience first, then added the features and finally decided on the technology.

Once the vision is written, adding a list of experiential requirements is a really useful way of developing the solution (allowing you to manage trade offs).

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