Siddharth | November 3, 2015

Product Design & Technology Development: Two sides of the same coin

Product Design and Technology Development are two sides of the same coin. For a startup where resources are low and financial crunch becomes a major factor, handling these two things become really troublesome. Still, the technology development in progress has to be commercialized one day, which directly indicates that product design cannot be overlooked.

So how can a startup afford to handle both these processes efficiently?

This is a question that has to be answered by any startup developing a product, and the sooner they find the answer, the faster they fail and experiment, and more are their chances to succeed. Most of us go wrong in thinking product design is the same as technology development, so when we do the prototype, we actually also design the product.

Generally when we undertake technology development, we only consider or think in a narrow context with a defined specification of the functionality. Here we generally know what outcome we expect and assume a lot of ideal cases, but in real life when the product is to be commercialised there never exist any ideal conditions. In fact, the conditions could be worse than what we imagine.

We tend to forget what a user wants or to keep it simple; we forget that there is a human who is going to use the product.

The best way to solve this problem is going about the product design along with the technology development.

While we talk about Product Design, it is not rocket science but the basics, i.e. if we were the end user what would we need in the product. The most important thing here is, while it’s good to have many features not all of them are needed – need vs. want vs. cost is the biggest decision in this entire process.

As part of the Villgro Fellowship learning, I recently attended a workshop conducted by Jacob Mathew on Human Centered Design, from which the biggest learning has been communicated in terms of a simple formula:

Great Design Intent = Function + Form + Context + Emotion

This formula simply proves that designing a great product is not rocket science but just a little common sense. To help us achieve these basics correctly, there are numerous tools available as a marker but none of them are the only possible ways to achieve a great design. The figure below just shows a simple iterative cycle which can be utilized in product design.

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 10.59.56 AM

Just to name a few of the tools that can be used:

* In the shoes of others
* Observations
* Fly on the wall
* Patterns
* Anomalies
* Notes
* Filming
* Observing
* Interviews
* Shadowing
* Story Boarding

All these basic tools would not only help us in getting a great product designed but at the same time would lead us towards cost-effective product development and lean manufacturing.

These practices are not only applicable for technology startups but any other entrepreneurial ventures. The only big challenge would be no two cases would be similar and requires a thoughtful innovation in different scales to achieve the desired success.