Tech products and services are confronted with the need to be more and more personalized in the current mobile culture. According to the 2017 Design in Tech Report and LinkedIn, the top tech companies have collectively increased hires in art and design by 65%, and are looking for more. As the mobile culture brings the platform of doing to us, businesses are creating products with design in mind first and foremost. Businesses are buying in design agencies and consultancies at an increasing rate to integrate design into their strategies. Since 2004, over 70 design agencies have been acquired globally, with more than 50% of the acquisition took place between 2015 and 2016. Some most recent examples include Teenhan+Lax acquired by Facebook, Lunar Design and McKinsey, Karmarama by Accenture. As Irene Au, Design Partner at Khosla Ventures points out the benefit in businesses collaborating with designers: “If the design partner role is to help startups realize the full potential value of design, the return on investment is the ultimate barometer of success in venture capital.” Considering how often we interact with the interface of a wide range of digital tools, it makes perfect sense: in a digital-focused world, product and brand design are pivotal in driving a business forward.
The term “user experience” reflects the intersectionality between tech, design and business, and the extent to which they are related: products are personal. User research and user persona development have become fundamental when anticipating how best to design a product that not only meets a user’s ends, but one that empathizes a user’s needs. For a product to meet a user’s goals in as few steps as possible without making them think is a key task of designers. To achieve that requires not only technical but also soft skills, such as observance, self-awareness and above all, an understanding of how to exercise empathy. User experience research and strategies have now come to play a critical role in marketing and content building within an organization structure. User research asks questions like, who is using the product, what are their potential needs and how could the product deliver in the most efficient and desirable ways? Keep in mind that personas vary, therefore so must the designing solutions. Just as importantly, how a brand tells the story of its product—from a user’s perspective and anticipatory of different emotions—can go a long way in fostering an emotional relationship with its users.
Enter human psychology: trust. Trust is embedded in how consistently a product is used and how significant it becomes in a user’s daily life. Naturally, a crucial element to include in product and brand design. One of the main points in this year’s Design in Tech Report is “Design Is By Nature, Inclusive”. A product with inclusive design feels like the user; it anticipates different personas’ needs in ways that both understand them and meet their goals practically. What is not to be forgotten is compelling storytelling when branding a product. If a branding design is able to engage the audience’s emotion—one that they can relate to—the likelihood of building a loyal following, which is monumental to a successful business, is also higher.
An acronym for “Searchable Log for All Conversation and Knowledge”, Slack is an example of a tech company whose product is designed for the mobile worker. The design of the now four year-old cloud-based platform creates and merges a virtual office, coworking desk, and each worker’s inbox that makes productivity easier to attain. Furthermore, as all forms of documents and dialogues can be shared and located on Slack with clarity, it makes an organized, communicative and open work environment, which consequentially influences how people work. There’s no need to remember every single detail, as each output is automatically saved on the cloud. The transparency in the exchanges within the team further instills a sense of reliability and reinforces the power of collaboration: while working, one feels one’s own productivity as well as the forces of coworkers.
Since 2016, a new design tool that delivers Google Docs’ collaborative feature has captured UI designers’ attention. The browser-based application Figma joins designers in a “real-time, all-in-one environment” to modify, edit and create demonstrations. Instead of sentences that have been struck through, Figma allows designers to visibly understand each other’s progress with flow lines in different frames, follow the functionality from each edit and create sharable prototypes. With a design made for designers, Figma is a new example of a tech tool that understands the nuances within the needs of the user. For example, its real-time and comments section features allow collaboration between UI designers to save time and execute more coherently.
Mobile culture doesn’t equate expedition simply through productivity; the digital culture is merging increasingly closer with human. A well-designed interface means excellent user experience and innovative functionality. It has always been about the user—how the product allows the user to make the most out of its function in meeting ends while simultaneously anticipating their needs.
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