Behaviour. The big one. Everything from the initial idea for a product, to the final sale, depends on the behaviour of designers, consumers, management, marketers, and service professionals. And if the behaviours of these stakeholders isn’t considered from the initial planning stages, the resulting design flaws can easily sink a product. I feel this is so important to good design that I’ve divided it into three sections: the sale, hardware, and software.
The Psychology of Buyers
Purchases fall into one of four main types based on the type of personal, cultural, and financial risk involved. And together, they produce four types of purchase decisions:
- Impulse – Done almost implicitly, these are items bought on a whim. (Items placed by the till in a gas station, for example.)
- Routine – These are the items bought regularly without requiring big decisions such as grocery items.
- Low-investment – This might be a clothing purchase or other item that requires some thought, but not discussions with a significant other or intense investigation prior to buying.
- Complex – These require large, in-depth discussions and research before making any decisions like houses, for example.
In addition to purchase types, the buying process generally also includes six steps:
- Have a problem – Identifies a need that has yet to have been met.
- Look for possible solutions – Consider vertical and horizontal alternatives. (So, this step could be ergonomic keyboards, wrist guards, and software that reduces wrist pain by improving typing posture.)
- Choose an option – Decide which solution is best.
- Decide on the specifics of the buy – This stage includes market research, or could simply be choosing to buy something at a specific store because the buyer is already going there.
- Act (Make a purchase) – Following through. (Step 4 might occur multiple times depending on how much time elapses between the buying decision and actually making the purchase.)
- Evaluate the purchase – After buying, the customer will decide if they’re happy overall, need something else to go with the original purchase, or if they would like to return the purchase. If they were forced to choose an alternative, they may also reason with themselves to mitigate post-purchase dissonance.
Then, there are buyer types. Some people never impulse shop and carefully consider every penny spent. Every extra dollar has to translate into a direct benefit or they won’t buy it. Others think little about the purchases they make other than whether it’s what they want at that moment. When you’re marketing, it’s vital to know which one of these types you’re dealing with, but buyer types should also influence designers.
If a product will introduce a multitude of aesthetic features, chances are, those who are cautious about spending money won’t be interested. The higher price tag due to the increased cost will do more harm than good. If, on the other hand, it’s all about the crowd with endless funds and a hunger for the latest and greatest, the “newer” a strange an item looks, the better. And designers shouldn’t stop there. Consider an end user’s lifestyles.
If an autonomous car will cost $200,000, for example, only those with enough disposable cash can afford to buy them. Combine this with the fear of autonomous cars, and the target buyer might be a professional woman outside the tech industry. So, designers would want to include features and designs that appeal to this group.
This doesn’t mean pink interiors, of course, but could translate into items such as using machine learning to learn her routine and make suggestions. If she likes banana smoothies, and tends to frequent expensive restaurants, for example, the car could suggest a new high-end drink place she could stop at on the way to work. It could include integrating the GPS with her calendar and email, route change suggestions to save her time, and serve up a personalized news feed on the way to work. It could even be something as simple as a spot to store her other shoes, or a checklist of items she needs to remember for the day.
The need for control over our environment, freedom, safety, security… the list of needs for buyers is endless, but these aren’t the only stakeholders designers must consider.
Company Culture and Designers
Product, software, and technology designers and engineers can’t focus solely on the needs of end users. They also have a company full of individuals with demands. Companies, in general, have a specific image and set of needs the items they offer have to fulfill. This could be a new-age trendy look that fits in with the company brand, constraints such as cost, materials, or target market. The item has to be scalable, reliable, and have minimal after-sale costs. In short, there will always be a management team with a specific list of needs that must be met at all costs.
Designers need work with production teams as well. The company needs to have the means or expertise to produce new products. Machinery and the ability to work with parts or materials will also be concerns. Perhaps, most importantly, production teams need to understand how new items work, how to put them together, and how to produce the items efficiently. This can mean many changes to a design before it’s ready to produce. Software is a great example. While end users may have a specific requirement, it may not be possible to do with current technology or require programming languages that current development teams aren’t familiar with. Or, the constraints of a specific language may not allow for certain actions.
Sales teams want a product that not only delivers on the promises they make, but it also needs to be sellable. And, let’s be honest, “usable” and “sellable” aren’t always synonymous. Sales and marketing teams that can be sold in just the right way. Products have to appeal to end users. Sales teams also need to be knowledgeable enough about the product, and how it works, to make the sale.
Lastly, maintenance teams need to be considered. After all, selling something no one can fix or troubleshoot isn’t worth selling. Maintenance teams need something that is quick and easy to repair. Or, something cheap enough to replace without requiring customer service. In terms of products such as software, for example, repairs and troubleshooting need to be easy enough that they can guide customers through the processes. Otherwise, the cost of maintenance and warranty could become more than the product is worth. Not to mention, something that’s difficult or expensive to repair doesn’t make for good customer reviews or word-of-mouth marketing.
Society and Designers
Does the product improve the world? Or, does it do more harm than good? With technology growing faster than the laws and regulations that govern it, social benefit has become a bit of a grey area. Take My Friend Cayla, for example.
The concept itself is genius: A doll children can talk to that responds in an intelligent manner. Ask the doll a question, and it uses Blue-Tooth and the Internet to find and give answers. Unfortunately, complaints allege the doll also records children’s voices and send those recording to a speech recognition company that also has connections with military and intelligence firms.
The repercussions of this technology, and opportunities now available through this seemingly-innocent toy, are both impressive and scary. The surveillance feature could be used for virtually any nefarious purpose. The information spouted back to the child can be completely controlled and filtered to advertise, push specific political viewpoints, or otherwise create havoc. And this isn’t the only toy with such potential. Others include I-Que robots and Hello Barbie, as well as smartphones, drones, children’s laptops, and other devices. Google and Apple have had similar run-ins with societies and cultures. A quick search pulls up endless lists of complaints in terms of privacy, information delivery, and security. And this has only risen as the “Internet of Things” continues to grow.
Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should
The ends don’t always justify the means. Designers need to consider the environmental, social, personal, and other costs their devices have. And they need to consider those who would use an object in ways not originally intended. John Pemberton, for example, wanted to cure headaches. Instead, he accidentally created Coca-Cola — one of the most successful drink products on the planet. Pfizer wanted to create a pill to treat chest pain, but ended up with Viagra instead. And who uses duct tape for ammunition cases these days? (Some, I’m certain, but not many. It’s used for many other things these days high school decor.)
If a product will have high environmental costs, serious personal repercussions (like the AshleyMadisson.com hack), or privacy problems, the road to success will be difficult. At the very least, the benefits have to outweigh the means. And they have to be considered throughout the process.
That is a lot to consider, but designers still need to think about the psychology of users and how that will affect the actual design of a product and how it works (hardware and software). And that’s the fun part.
You’ll find more on the Seven Step Process to Good Design here:
Step 1 – Attitude
Step 2 – Strength
Step 3 – Behaviour
Step 4 – Models and Mapping
Step 5 – Hardware (External Workings)
Step 6 – Software (Internal Workings)
Step 7 – Feedback and Behaviour Dependant Design