User-Centric Design & its Value in Consumer Electronics.
Updated: Mar 3
Criador Labs | Product Design Firm | USA & India
So, how can you design a product that keeps the user at its centre? How can you ensure your product gets accepted by your target audience and the mainstream consumer market?
A product is doomed to failure if you do not consider the consumer’s needs and wants. Therefore, we consider designing a consumer electronics product that keeps the user central to its design. Unfortunately, even in our day-to-day life, we come across products that look great but are not so impressive once you start using them. Do not 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. However, 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 centre? How can you ensure your product gets accepted by your target audience and the mainstream consumer market?
First, let us understand what user-centred design is;
Some products are designed to meet business goals through fancy features and advanced technology. However, the design approaches can leave out one critical factor – the end-user experience even for these products. User-centred 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, behaviour and lifestyle. Therefore, employing UCD during product design results in a final product that more efficiently delivers a satisfying and user-friendly experience. In consumer electronics, usability measures how a user can achieve set goals effectively, efficiently, and satisfactorily in the specified environment. One meaningful way this can be attained is through user-friendly interface design. Conversely, an interface devoid of usability will cost consumers time and effort and significantly influence a product’s success or failure.
The ideas behind any user-centred design must be central to the product concept and must remain focused throughout the entire development process – and further into the product life cycle. Let us look at some of the critical concepts behind user-centred 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 take only what is required and leave the rest to support an individual request. Limitations evoked by the product should be as minimal as possible. This prompts the developers to provide easy ways to achieve what is frequently needed.
You might know about Apple's Magic Mouse. You may even be using one right now. It is a great product but has one annoying limitation.
While charging, the product needs to remain inverted or angled because the charging port is at the bottom of the scroll area. This does not make the product itself bad, but it does evoke some frustration in the user. Therefore, your product should match user expectations for a genuinely user-centred design as efficiently as possible.
Design for the users.
Any product designed for a particular group of consumers should be aware of their lifestyle and work environment. The developer needs to consider the characteristics of the user population, the tasks involved in the real world and the specified environment. A fancy product with a lot of high-tech features may seem cool. However, is it 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 us take a look at another example. The Philips Cooktop Induction Hob has tens of menu items, giving cooking information about the food you might wish to cook.
However, 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. However, if your users will never use them, it is a waste – they are just an added complication. To make a product successful, understanding your user's needs is vital.
Ease of operation.
Any general user should be able to understand your product functionality. Do not confuse users with tons of options and features. There should be clear and simple ways to carry out any given operation in your product. Furthermore, you need to offer exits and termination options if something goes wrong. A great product requires easy handling.
One of the best things about the latest MacBook is not its advanced technology or powerful processor but its stylish simplicity. It is the same with the new Surface Laptops.
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. Furthermore, 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 do not want to worry about the tool in use or its interaction with the designed product. Therefore, users will be frustrated if interaction with the device is complicated. Why? Because they will be distracted from their primary work.
Often, we give this example of the Samsung Microwave Oven in our office. Unfortunately, unlike conventional microwave ovens, it does not have a door handle. This can be a frustrating experience for a first-time user because there is no indication of opening the oven.
Too much effort invested in learning one operation makes a product less efficient and more prone to user error. Therefore, it makes instructions on how to use the product essential. Moreover, such instructions should be clearly defined and retrievable when needed.
An error-free and consistent product
Finally, a product is excellent only when it is error-free. Consumers will only love it if it can deliver every time without compromising any outcome. Remember the Samsung Galaxy Note 7?
It was a Samsung flagship launch. However, due to several cases of battery failure that caused the device to burn, this flagship product was banned by some airlines for a while. So even though the failure rate was reasonably low, the risk of such an error wiped out its potential.
To summarize, it is never worth rushing to get your product to market. Companies put much effort into adding technology, fancy aesthetics, and attractive features, but great looks do not guarantee usability. Hence, even the most beautiful products can face rejection in the consumer market and lose business money. To win in the consumer market, you must make a product for consumers.
Do you have an excellent idea you want to launch into the market? We recommend you talk to a product innovation firm like us first. We work with design and technology to keep users at the centre of any product design. When you work with us, you do not need to rush your product; a great product will stay great if it is relevant and valuable for its users. Take time to understand your target consumer before building your idea and product design. Moreover, if you need help, ask us. We provide consultation and help at all stages of the product development process, which can help focus start-ups and buzzing minds!