How do good products happen?

There is no standard recipe for good product design. There are however some key ingredients that I consider essential for it. I have worked with businesses across all of these phases of development.

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Generative Research

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Informed Ideation

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Information Architecture

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Testing and Iteration

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Generative Research

Before you start designing or building anything, take the time to truly listen.
Gain insights into what goes through people's heads as they do something. Doing this at the very beginning — before other assumptions and biases enter the picture — can guide you in every decision along the way. It sounds so simple, yet hardly ever happens.

For Example:

If you are looking to build a business enabling women to design their own shoes, first ask some of them: What went through your head when you bought your last pair? You will find a number of different intents and purposes. Once you know these, you can support them in your design.

Table top with research related items and results.
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Informed Ideation

Once people’s context has been gleaned and their intents and purposes are better understood, informed ideas can begin to surface and evolve. The way future users of your product tend to think is now being baked into it.

Prototype of a “Filter Wizard” Concept for Shoes of Prey, Inc.

Rather than presenting potential customers with a blank canvas to design their own shoes and asking them to create something from scratch, the Filter Wizard enables them to browse and filter a seemingly infinite catalog, full of pre-rendered “shoe templates” — an experience much more comparable to (and competitive with) that of other shopping sites.

By sequencing filtering criteria based on research, it prioritizes decisions that shoppers are more able and likely to make.

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Information Architecture

Knowing and defining the ontology of something — all the involved entities and their relationships — captured in a clear data model, helps designers and developers better understand what it is they need to build. It brings everyone on the same page and ultimately turns complexity into simplicity.

Flow Chart and Data Model Document
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Sketches, wireframes, mock-ups, and animations can all help in the process of defining the look and feel of a product. This goes far beyond aesthetics, of course. The visual implementation of concepts is typically what makes a product accessible.

Icon System for “Skater”

A comprehensive understanding of the exact “choreography” of skateboarding tricks and the various axis on which board and skater can rotate, has lead to a visual representation — almost an iconographic language — that can be used to represent tricks and form sequences that even non-skaters can interpret and replicate, making the experience accessible to a larger audience.

Mobile Game Skater on iPhone
Layers of a trick icon in Skater
Body Spin Layer

Body Spin

Direction and number of rotations of body

Board Flips Layer

Board Flips

Direction and number of board rotations along its length-axis

Board Shuvs Layer

Board Shuvs

Direction and number of board rotations along its planar axis

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With only minimal investment, building a prototype can give you a first impression — a feel for a product or one of its features. Sometimes even just “pretending” use with minimal mockups or animations can be a valuable first step, before committing to building a more interactive experience.

Think -> Make -> Check
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Testing and Iteration

Ongoing testing and iteration throughout the development process are critical. As we design, we inevitably make assumptions. That's why it's important to continuously readjust and aim to strike just the right balance between testing those assumptions and further advancing development.

Testing at a skate park.

Testing prototypes can be tricky in unexpected ways. When working on console game “Skater XL” in Medellín, Colombia, safety concerns made recruiting testers difficult. Throwing some crates and a laptop in the back of a van and driving it to local skate parks ended up being the only way to get it into the hands of skaters.

Testing in the back of a van.