User-Centered Design and its Importance in Consumer Electronics

Criador Labs | Published : Feb 2019

A product is doomed to failure if you don’t consider the consumer’s needs and wants. We consider how to design a consumer electronics product that keeps the user central to its design. Even in our day-to-day life, we come across products which look great but aren’t so impressive once you start using them. Don’t be surprised if I tell you that all the big tech giants have such a product! Take Google Glass for example: a great looking, full-featured AR Device. Yet, in 2015, Google had to discontinue it because mainstream consumers disliked the device’s awkward appearance and high price tag.

So, how can you design a product that keeps the user at its center? How can you ensure your product gets accepted by your target audience and/or the mainstream consumer market?

First, let’s understand what user-centered design is

Some products are designed to meet business goals through their fancy features and advanced technology. However, even for these products, the design approaches can leave out one critical factor – the end-user experience.

User-centered design (UCD) is the process of developing a product from the perspective of how it will be understood and used by any human user.

A product can be tailored to support its target user’s expectations, behavior and lifestyle. Employing UCD during product design results in a final product that delivers a satisfying and user-friendly experience more efficiently.

In consumer electronics, usability is a measure of how a user can achieve set goals effectively, efficiently, and satisfactorily in the specified environment. One important way this can be attained is through user-friendly interface design. An interface devoid of usability will cost consumers time and effort and will significantly influence a product’s success or failure.

The ideas behind any user-centered design must be central to the product concept and must remain in focus throughout the entire development process – and further into the product life cycle. Let’s look at some of the key concepts behind user-centered design and their importance.

The user takes charge

Any user buying or using a product knows what he/she needs. For the user to do what is required, they should be able to take only what is required and leave the rest to support an individual request. Limitations evoked by the product should as minimal as possible. This prompts the developers to provide easy ways to achieved what is frequently needed.

You might know about Apple Mouse. You may even be using one right now. It’s a great product but has one annoying limitation.

Apple Magic Mouse

While charging, the product needs to remain inverted or angled, because the charging port is at the bottom of the scroll area. This doesn’t make the product itself bad, but it does evoke some frustration in the user. For a truly user-centered design, your Product should match with user expectations as easily as possible.

Design for the users

Any product designed for a particular group of consumers should be absolutely aware of their lifestyle and/or work environment. It is important for the developer to consider the characteristics of the user population, the tasks involved in the real world and the specified environment. A fancy product with lot of high-tech features may seem cool. But is it really worth developing all those extra features? Are they what the consumer wants? The answer to this question should be “yes” for every feature you work on during your development process.
Let’s take a look at another example. The Philips Cooktop Induction Hob has tens of menu items, giving cooking information about food you might wish to cook.

Philips Induction Cooktop

However, in daily use, we observe that cooks only use a couple of them; the rest are of little or no value. It takes time and resources to build such features. But if your users are never going to use them, it’s a waste – they’re just an added complication. To make a product really successful, understanding the needs of your user is vital.

Ease of operation

Any general user should be able to understand your product functionality. Don’t confuse users with tons of options and features. There should be clear and simple ways to carry out any given operation in your product. And if something goes wrong, you need to offer exits and termination options. A great product requires easy handling. One of the best things about latest MacBook is not its advanced technology or powerful processor, but its stylish simplicity. It’s the same with the new Surface Laptops.

Microsoft Surface 2

The one-finger lid-opening mechanism enables users to open the device easily. This effortless handling of the device makes it stand out against competitors. And it gives the user a feeling of satisfaction when using the product.

Reduce unnecessary effort

Users like to concentrate on the task at hand. They don’t want to have to worry about the tool in use or its interaction with the designed product. Users will be frustrated if interaction with the device is complicated. Why? Because they will be distracted from their main work.

Often, we give this example of the Samsung Microwave Oven in our office. Unlike conventional microwave ovens, it doesn’t have a door handle. For a first-time user, this can be frustrating experience because there’s no indication about how to open the oven.

Samsung Solo Microwave Oven

Too much effort invested in learning one operation makes a product less efficient and more prone to user error. It makes instructions on how to use the product essential. And such instructions should be clearly defined and retrievable when needed.

An error-free and consistent product

Finally, a product is great only when it’s error free. It’s only going to be loved by consumers if it can deliver every time without compromising any outcome. Remember the Samsung Galaxy Note 7?

Samsung Note 7

It was a Samsung flagship launch. But, due to several cases of battery failure that caused the device to burn, this flagship product was banned by some airlines for a while. Even though the failure rate was fairly low, the risk of such an error wiped out its potential.

To summarize, it’s never worth rushing to get your product to market. Companies put a lot of effort into adding technology, fancy aesthetics and attractive features, but great looks don’t guarantee a usability factor. Hence, even the most beautiful products can face rejection in the consumer market and can lose the business money. To win in the consumer market, you must make a product for consumers.

Do you have a cool idea you want to launch into the market? We recommend you talk to a product innovation firm like us first. We work side by side with design and technology to keep users at center of any product design.When you work with us, you don’t need to rush your product; a great product is going to stay great as long as it’s relevant and useful for its users. Take time to understand your target consumer before you build your idea and product design. And, if you need help, ask us. We provide consultation and help at all stages of the product development process – something that can help to focus start-ups and buzzing minds!

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