Designing the Perfect Product

Ever wonder what it takes to create the perfect product? In this consumer-driven world, design requires careful attention and a deep understanding of the customer. Beyond that, it requires multiple prototypes and a constant yearning to iterate to get to that perfect product.

So, just how many prototypes does it take to get there?

While iteration is key, you also don’t want perfection to become the enemy of progress. Sometimes a product is good enough and you have to ship it. In last week’s hangout, How Much Design Iteration Is Enough”, we were fortunate to speak with innovation and design experts about the iteration process and some best practices to designing and creating that next great thing.

Our panelists included:

Gerber Technology – Karsten Newbury, VP and General Manager for Software

EF Education First – Nate Cameron, VP, Executive Creative Director

Accenture Labs – Sunny Webb, Technology and Innovation Executive

Here are our top five key takeaways from this engaging conversation:

Start with the customer and engage with them. By now you know this, but it bears repeating.

Always keep your customer in mind.

Seriously.

Get out of your offices and homes and go where your customer is. To make iterating worthwhile, you need your customer’s feedback and you need to observe them in their environment.

Next, test your assumption and learn. Never assume you know what your customer wants. You want to be sure you are learning from testing and not “iterating towards the obvious” as Nate put it. Then he added, “Trust your team. Trust yourself. Trust the research. Trust the customer. Challenge yourself to start from a different level from where you were starting.”

Then, Have a bias towards action. This is crucial if you want to see success. Don’t tell your customer, show your customer the possibilities. Give them the product, let them play with it, and then observe. Through that observation will come your next round of product iterations.

Create a culture in the team to embrace failure. A culture of failure is so important to fostering innovations. Have fun with this. Sunny shared that Accenture Labs calls failures a “tah-dah” moment and raises their hands to cheer people on if they fail so they can be more comfortable knowing this is ok. And they make sure to learn from it in the next iteration.

Ship it. This might be one of the most critical steps. When it comes to thinking about whether your product is good enough, “Stop debating and waffling. You can always test a subset of the users if you are nervous about your level of success. You will quickly know if it’s great or you missed,” Nate shared. Stop iterating at some point and get your product or service to market so you can see how it does. Observe then iterate again. It does not have to be “one and done”.

When do you stop iterating?

How do you know when it’s finally time to stop designing and start shipping your product to customers? Karsten and Nate had a few suggestions to keep in mind as you stop your process:

Have the end goal in mind. This end goal can be tied to an outcome, a phase in the project. Whatever it might be, take a look at the end goal.

  • Stop iterating if you are stuck. That’s right. Are you stuck? Something just isn’t working? That’s ok. Stop iterating.
  • Stop iterating if you are not making progress. Maybe you’re not only stuck, but you keep refining the same exact thing. That means, it’s time to STOP.
  • When the customer asks, “How soon can I have this?” Then get to market faster. This is an amazing problem to have. If you’re customer’s asking for your product, then you’re in good shape.
  • Are you delivering more value than what you have today? If your new iteration is better than the product that already exists, then ship it.

Remember that if you do go to market you can learn more from your customers and iterate again. So, use those 2 week sprints and observe your customers to find ways to get to market faster. Learn. Iterate. And revise.

And for inspiration…

Sunny told us to remember, “It takes the same amount of energy to dream big as it does to dream small. So if you think about that why not dream big?” Nate reinforced this, “Shoot for the moon. Land on the roof. Shoot higher than expected so you can still land further than you would have otherwise.”

For more on this hangout discussion and for examples of who is doing iteration well, check out the complete hangout, “How Much Design Iteration Is Enough”.

Gretchen Hoffman

Posted By: 

Gretchen Hoffman

VP Marketing