Technologists and engineers develop amazing new possibilities. But if no one understands how or why to use the technology that brings these possibilities to life, the technology is essentially useless. It is an unfortunate dilemma. Sure, the technology is great. Sure, it is unique. Why else would so much work go into it? So, why does it fail? Technology often requires such specialized knowledge and its builders know all the ins and outs of how it does what it does, but the builders do not usually know how or why people should use it. Because of this gap, technologists often face a steep uphill challenge convincing investors, OEMs and every day consumers that they need their game-changing intellectual property. Enter designers. We are the solution to this challenge. By working with designers, technologists can move past these struggles to productize and bring their possibilities to market.
The bridge between capability and context.
Designers–industrial designers, visual designers, interaction designers–connect technology to how people interact in and with the world. Designers fill in the why and the how. For example, a prominent feature in phones is their ability to vibrate. It’s great that phones can vibrate, but is that functionality enough in and of itself? What if that vibration were more complex and what if those more complex vibrations could communicate several levels of meaning? Technologists can make those complex vibrations happen, but for it to mean something to people, designers come in and look at where and why those complex vibrations might be useful. Designers speculate and investigate: Maybe layers of vibrations can allow users to operate a device eyes-free, or maybe the vibrations can signal warning alerts with distinct meanings. Designers are the people who shape the experience that the technology can deliver. Designers create the potential for, and the impact of, the raw materials by making the connection between capability and context. This bridge is essential to establishing technology’s usefulness.
Storytellers to the rescue.
Design is all about communication. Designers tell stories. Through these stories, called user scenarios, designers are able to understand and explain how and why people use, or would use, a given technology. Working with a designer to productize technology means the technology will have a compelling story to tell, to investors, to clients and to consumers. That story can help engineers make decisions about what should and shouldn’t be included in the builds so that engineers can create something the marketplace wants and needs. A story will also help companies to decide what they need to focus on as a company. And perhaps, most importantly, stories give investors, clients and consumers a way to quickly understand the technology without having to decode the possibilities. No translation from computer science required.
Getting in the user’s head.
Designers also help technologists to shape and hone the technology through user research. We spend time trying things out and observing existing behaviors of users. Through this type of research, designers pinpoint a user’s pain point or his work around that could better be served with the new technology. Testing those insights further through prototype testing gives technologists real-world insight into what does or doesn’t work in real life versus what they see in their lab. By giving technologists user requirements and expectations, designers provide actionable metrics for gauging success of new technologies and defining where precious development time should be spent. This helps to accelerate time to market because the most desirable features are already considered and supported, so clients can quickly incorporate these features into products and services.
As technology becomes more ubiquitous, and its user-base and their expectations expand, technologists are beginning to see how designers can be an indispensible part of their process. Designers help technologists save time and money, and to save users frustration. And technologists give designers the materials to build the future. Technologists + Designers = BFFs
Don’t believe us? Check out what D3 attendee Jered said on the matter when interviewed by GoPro: https://vimeo.com/