How to Design a Kickass Product

Product design is often not viewed within the realm of marketing. Usually, the core drivers for product design include cost and functionality. As long as the product does what it needs to and costs are kept down, it is often not improved upon.

This neglect is arguably the most crucial factor in why marketing is often accompanied by negative connotations. Very often, it is believed that the key to success is the amazing promotion of a lackluster product. This is very short sighted. Having good promotions boosts sales in the short term, but in order to continue such high volumes of sales, money will need to be continually invested in promotions. Having a good product capitalises on the long term. Not only will many of your sales come naturally, but it will continue steadily in the future with minimal marketing support.

With this in mind, what are the main factors affecting product design? There are six factors, which are listed and explained below.

  • Function
  • Ergonomics
  • Aesthetics
  • Durability
  • Safety
  • Sustainability

Function describes how the product provides value. This is a core aspect of product design, and is the most important consideration. A screwdriver which does not tighten screws well is useless. A table which is prone to toppling belongs in the trash. Functionality is how well the product delivers its core value, without causing unnecessary annoyances.

Ergonomics describes how easy and comfortable the product is to use. If the product frequently causes harm to the user, then it is not ergonomically designed. On the other hand, a product which fits comfortably yet firmly and allows value to be delivered with greatest ease would be a good product in terms of ergonomics.

Aesthetics describes how the product looks. Although we are told not to, as consumers we frequently judge books by their covers. In fact, we judge everything by their cover- at least initially. Aesthetics can be used to convey function, quality, or just provide value through social, emotional, or esteem benefits. A pink chainsaw very different from a normal one. Having aesthetics which matches consumer expectations is incredibly important.

Durability describes how reliable and lasting a product is. If a product is likely to break after a few uses, the value it provides decreases drastically. On the other hand, a well-made product which lasts many years is often worth paying more for. Durability thus directly augments the value derived from function.

Safety is pretty self-explanatory. Unless absolutely necessary, consumers often do not prefer products which are unsafe. If the gas stove you bought burns you 50% of the time you try to start it, you would probably not use it very often. Even if it cooks well, looks great, and lasts forever- due to safety reasons value would decrease. Sometimes, safety could be more subtle: such as a toy which is a choking hazard. To avoid angry customers and lawsuits, it is recommended that safety be an important consideration.

Sustainability has to do with reducing obsolescence. Simply put- how long will your product survive in a future which is constantly changing. A machine which has a heavy dependence on a rapidly-depleting resource could be said to lack sustainability. Similarly, a product which is easily replaced by newer technology is also quite low on sustainability. Sustainability not only affects customers, but affects the future of your product as well.

Beats by Dre is one of my favourite products to hate. The only design factor I would remotely consider to be in its favour would be aesthetics. If you are unfamiliar with Beats by Dre, it is a brand of headphones which is heavily endorsed by celebrities and advertising. Consumers who are audio-savvy consider it one of the worst products in the market. The reason it fails quite horrible in product design is that it completely lacks good functionality and durability. It plays terrible audio and is easily broken. While it looks nice, it is not very comfortable either. This is a classic example of where a large amount of marketing funds overtakes product design completely: leading to a product which is trendy and popular as long as money is continuously poured into marketing.

Sennheiser, on the other hand, is a very well designed product. It has good audio quality, it looks nice, and if often durable and comfortable to wear. While I am not claiming it is the best in the market, it shows a sharp contrast with Beats by Dre in product design done correctly.

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