Right at the birth of our company we recognised the importance of product design. Cocoon had to be designed not as an electronic accessory but as a complement to the home. We wanted Cocoon to be an object of beauty and asked why so many technology products are nondescript black boxes.
Quality can be an issue with freelancer marketplaces like DesignCrowd and Elance but that is reflected in their low cost. They allowed us to cheaply generate a range of low quality but radically different concepts from a variety of designers.
We try to follow the lean start-up methodology and showed our early design concepts to 50+ people in our first customer development interviews. This process allowed us to tune our initial value proposition and get qualitative feedback on each design concept. Most importantly though, it was the start of learning the customer profiles most likely to buy our product and therefore learn who we are designing for.
Quantifying good product design
Customer development interviews executed well are indispensable for learning what you hadn’t yet thought to ask but they will never give statistically significant data. What’s more, design can be subjective and we found some people liked a concept for the same reason others disliked it.
Peter Drucker famously said “What’s measured improves” and we needed a clear way to measure improvement (or deterioration) in our product design as we developed the concepts.
We tried a number of tools but settled on Google Consumer Surveys, a service which poses questions to people who wish access premium content:
Google Consumer Surveys is best for asking thousands of people a single question. In such scenarios accuracy is high, a poll run on the platform correctly predicted the result of the last US presidential election.
To create a baseline, we ran a poll of the concepts that performed best in customer interviews alongside a competing product:
Feedback in customer interviews gave us hypotheses as to design changes that could improve each concept, each of which we could rapidly test by making the changes and running a new poll on Google – results come back in a couple of days.
We liked that poll data can be broken down by the respondent’s gender, age, location (including urban density) and parental status allowing us to check design preference in the cohorts our customer development had shown were most likely to want our product. Two demographic groups we’d identified as important responded very differently to changes and the challenge became to find a form that would poll well in both groups.
You can pay for data on magazine readership profiles but we found some magazines publish the demographic of their readership. Those that don’t will send it free in response to an advertising inquiry. There are no surprises in this example for Grazia magazine!:
We identified publications with a readership very focused on each of our demographic groups and picked up some copies. A little judgement was required to pick out products featured or advertised in each magazine that appear to be successful due to their aesthetic quality but it gave us some direction and ideas as to the design properties that might appeal to each group.
It took several attempts to melt the ideas together into a successful design popular in both groups but progress has been made:
We need your help
We’re not stopping there, in our latest set of concepts we’re exploring the use of textiles for the sound and pressure sensor covers and have refined the shape of the base. We’d love to know what you think: Do you prefer fabric or metal mesh sensor covers? The sloped or rounded base? Which color would you choose?
Please give us your feedback, good or bad in the comments section below. We really value your thoughts on our product design.