The Growing Importance Of Design In The Tech World
By: Manju Mohan
The technology ecosystem is one that is collaborative in form and structure. It fosters cocreation much to the extent that design is no longer seen as a "good to have" or considered as an afterthought. Thinking in terms of addressing a business problem only through the technology lens will not render sustainable solutions anymore.
So, I believe it is safe to say that design has indeed become an integral part of problem-solving. Why do I say this? Simply put, we are increasingly interacting with more designs in our daily technological lives than we once did. Usability and interactivity are a lot more critical in determining the success of a product and the overall consumer experience. The all-encompassing nature of tech has rendered the user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design more important than ever before. Today’s consumer-facing technology is far more elegant than what it used to be, and good design underscores the difference.
With digitization initiatives dictating our lives, most businesses have an online presence in some form, and a company's website is often the first interaction consumers have with a brand. It is, therefore, important to make a good first impression. And how is that done? Through good design.
As the CEO and co-founder of a full-spectrum development firm that specializes in technology and design, I've seen firsthand the value design can add to a business. Below are a few ways you can ensure your design helps enhance your connection with consumers:
Foster collaboration between your tech and design teams.
At my company, we consciously focus on building a design-driven culture and a rigorous design-centric process by fostering collaboration between tech and design teams. Implementing the best technology in an application can be crucial to building an innovative and advanced software solution, but what if users are not able to intuitively make use of this great tech you’ve put in front of them?
Far too many software projects have suffered a premature end because they focused more on the tech and less on the usability. Today’s users are quite sophisticated and lack tolerance for technology that does not feel natural to them.
There is a delicate balance to be cultivated between design and technology teams to build applications that are both user-centric and technologically savvy. To reach this balance, begin with design, and think through product development. Then, inject the right technology as you go to achieve the desired outcome.
Allow the design to help shape business strategy.
Designers for tech are equipped with skills to understand the business landscape and are poised to shape strategy as they put themselves in the shoes of an average consumer. While conversion rates and the like are heavily thought through by business executives and their tech counterparts, designers can focus on providing a frictionless user experience. This translates their role to that advocates for potential users.
In my experience, as designers in your company become more involved in shaping business strategy, they'll start to grow because they'll have an understanding of the design and the strategic sides of the business.
There have been projects where our designers add features or flows to the application that result in better customer retention — an important metric for measuring the success of an application. I encourage a culture of speaking up when there is an idea, as there are no wrong ideas and mistakes are encouraged to be made and then fixed. Ensure your designers have the freedom to share their opinions without fear will promote a healthier design team that can bring great strategic input to the product development.
Build culturally relevant products.
There is no point in building a generic product that does not resonate on a cultural level with a specific target audience. Whether building a product for a regional client or for a business belonging to a completely different geography, you must understand the cultural nuances of users. Your designers likely already know this.
To ensure your product is culturally relevant, encourage your design team to engage in elaborate discussions and conversations that will help familiarize themselves with culture-specific user habits, behaviors and perceptions toward the business. Designers can think beyond usual business goals. This helps bring about a multidisciplinary dimension.
The cultural differences could be in the language used, color scheme, placement of content and use of white space. You also need to consider whether the target audience is more used to mobile phones or desktops and laptops. In some countries, for example, users' mobile phones might have limited memory and configuration, or internet speeds might be slower. Ensure that applications you build for those markets are mobile-friendly, and remember that apps should not be bulky or require high bandwidth.
Prototype before building to save time and money.
Designing first in the technology landscape allows businesses to experience the application as a prototype before building out the entire product. In our process, for example, we adhere to always prototyping before building. We give our customers a clickable prototype that has all the major interactions of the product without a single line of code.
There is so much to be learned and modified with just the prototype. Changing the application during the design phase (with the prototype) versus changing the code after it is built can save time and money. Changing code can be very complicated because changing one item in one area might result in needing changes all over the application to keep it functioning well. So, consider building a prototype before building your tech.
There is much more that a design approach can bring to product development than simply where to place a button or what color to use. Meeting the business objectives of the product also lies in the hands of a design team. Cultivating a strong design culture in organizations can be what ensures successful product development.