Some little rules about design General

In design, it’s what’s inside that counts

. What you see with your eyes on that screen is not “design”. That is the style of your product, the looks, or the graphics that have been chosen for you, the mask that has been put on top of the app, which usually follows a trend, and which can change every year. This year might be the year for gradients, next year could be the year for the pastel colors. The first rule of Design instead is about making something work. A great product is a product which has been designed inside and outside at the same moment, because what’s outside is determined by how it’s inside works, and vice versa. And the beauty of such product is determined by this too. People tell us that our iOS app is very well designed. But how can that be if we just used the standard sdk? Instagram works so well because it’s designed inside and out together in such way that you never have to wait for anything. Women say that beautiful men are those ones who are successful. That’s because their beauty comes from inside. In fact, most of the time, the great products look good because their function makes us think it’s like that. Take for example a fire extinguisher. That’s a great design. It’s beautiful to look at. But no one had actually thought “oh let’s make rounded, shiny and red because it looks cool”! It’s beautiful looks comes from it’s function. It’s red and shiny because you need to see it properly! And it’s shape is made for you to hold it properly. So, a good design is one where you clearly feel that the inside and the outside are working seamlessly together.

The design of a feature, or a product isn’t finished when it works, but it’s finished when it makes people feel good

. Everyone is able to make something work properly, it usually requires some logic. But not everyone is able to make something that people actually want to use, or touch, or use again after the first time. That’s the real challenge. That is what gets the 5 stars. That is what gets someone who doesn’t even know you to talk to their friends about you. And a product feels good when you take care of the little details. People react to details because that’s what tells if you’ve been taking care of them. It’s through the little details that you show to people that you value them. That is what makes the difference between Apple and Samsung, a Fiesta and a Mini. Between a Zara shoe and a Ferragamo shoe. Between Flickr and Instagram. So, a good design is one that makes people feel good, not only one that makes a product work.

Good design is the beginning of a long relationship with the product

. The relationship between a person and their objects is like a love relationship. Do not play tricks, do not fool your users, because if they loose the trust in you they will leave you and won’t come back. If the object let’s you down, it’s going to be very hard to recover the trust. A good design should always follow the rules of real life. It must be sexy, honest, simple, clear, straightforward, smart and fun. A good design also contains the promise that your relationship with the object could be a very long one. So when you design a product, or a feature, you should always think long term. No girl or boy will ever marry you if you approach them by saying “hey do you want to come to bed with me? I’m a good lover”. It’s a long process and it begins with simple, humble things. This is exactly the same as designing a good product. So, a good design follows the rules of life, be honest with your user, and make it simple, smart, fun, desirable and also sexy.

The design of your product has already began before you were even born

. It’s called evolution. No one invents anything from scratch. Every product you hold in your hands is an iteration of someone else’s. And tracing down the beginning of that means going back to the beginning of time. So, when you have to design something new, don’t try and reinvent the wheel, but take the one which has already been invented and, if you want, try and see if you can contribute to this evolution by making it a little bit better. So, good design is not an individual effort but a collective one, and which is going on since forever. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel.

Good design is about removing, not adding

. As Bruno Munari, or Leonardo Da Vinci, or Michelangelo, or even Steve Jobs said, simplification is what make a good design. One of the most common mistakes in design, especially in the technology world, is to think that if you fill the table with food, people will be happier because they think they have choice. But reality is that most people don’t like it when you give them too much. They don’t know what to do with it, what to choose, and therefore they feel uncomfortable. When people buy your product, they want to buy what you have chosen is good for them. To go back to point 3, a good partner makes good choices for their loved ones. Get to know how their appetite is, give them only what you think they will want, and they will love you for that. Not only, but mobile app design also teaches us the importance of serving the courses in steps as opposed of putting everything on the table at once. So, good design is about removing, not adding.

Better products through chemistry General

As a product manager, I’m a big fan of the framework for finding causal reasons why people switch from one product to another.

In the framework, we often talk about the importance of energy. Energy manifests itself as the emotion and motivation customers have to make progress — to make a potential switch to our products. Understanding how energy works, helps to make our products better.

Activation Energy

In high school chemistry we learned about something called “activation energy”. In any experiment, there needs to be enough activation energy for a chemical reaction to occur. Once the activation energy is achieved, the reaction just tumbles along.

In the above diagram, we start at the top left and at a certain state. Imagine the reaction is a small marble perched in the top ledge of the graph. What we need to do is supply just enough “push” to the marble to get over that hump and then the marble will roll down the hill and produce change. The hump that needs to be overcome is called the activation energy.

In the same way, people looking to make progress must overcome a similar activation energy hump to move to a purchase. The hump in this case are the forces that are working against them — The Anxiety of the new and theHabit of the present.

“Anxiety of the new” is the fear of the future solution. Think about the fear you might feel when changing to a new job — it’s awesome because it’s a new job, at the same time, there’s lots of anxiety about the new situation (Will I get along with my co-workers, will my boss like me?).

The “Habit of the present” is the current situation being “good enough” to satisfy any needs. Think about how hard it was to leave your old job (I know how things are done at this office. I have a lot of vacation saved up).

Potential customers need to get enough energy to overcome these hurdles and these come in the form of two forces: Magnetism of the new and Push of the situation.

The “Magnetism of the new” is the draw of the future solution. It’s the vision of how life could be in the new world. (Maybe the new job you’re thinking of is working on really big meaty problems. Maybe the new job has a super-smart team you admire).

The “Push of the situation” is the pain of the current solution. It’s the problem with the present that makes life intolerable. (Maybe your current boss is not the greatest. Maybe the work isn’t challenging you anymore).

Applying More Energy

Now in chemistry, there are two ways to overcome the hump of activation energy. One way is to supply more energy — turn up the heat on the bunsen burner, if you will.

In product marketing, often times we will “supply more energy” by playing up the “Magnetism of the New”. We’ll tout the features and power of our new solution in an effort to increase the energy. What we don’t realize is that in some chemical reactions there is something called “Negative activation energy”. When you turn up the heat, you actually decrease the rate of reaction! In the job example, the awesome new team you get to work with, might be intimidating at the same time! (Will I be able to keep up with these guys).

In Jobs To Be Done theory, this happens because as you increase the “Magnetism of the New” — you’re also increasing the “Anxiety of the New” at the same time. The more you say how awesome the new thing is, the more you make the person fearful of the new thing. It’s negative activation energy.

Using a Catalyst

Instead of just applying more energy, we can look to the other way of overcoming activation energy — the use of a catalyst. In chemistry, the catalyst is a substance that modifies the reaction so that the activation energy is lowered. Instead of supplying more energy, it lowers the amount of energy necessary to trigger the reaction.

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