Designing for the Digital Age
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Designing for the Digital Age

How to Create Human-Centered Products and Services

Kim Goodwin

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eBook - ePub

Designing for the Digital Age

How to Create Human-Centered Products and Services

Kim Goodwin

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About This Book

Whether you're designing consumer electronics, medical devices, enterprise Web apps, or new ways to check out at the supermarket, today's digitally-enabled products and services provide both great opportunities to deliver compelling user experiences and great risks of driving your customers crazy with complicated, confusing technology.

Designing successful products and services in the digital age requires a multi-disciplinary team with expertise in interaction design, visual design, industrial design, and other disciplines. It also takes the ability to come up with the big ideas that make a desirable product or service, as well as the skill and perseverance to execute on the thousand small ideas that get your design into the hands of users. It requires expertise in project management, user research, and consensus-building. This comprehensive, full-color volume addresses all of these and more with detailed how-to information, real-life examples, and exercises. Topics include assembling a design team, planning and conducting user research, analyzing your data and turning it into personas, using scenarios to drive requirements definition and design, collaborating in design meetings, evaluating and iterating your design, and documenting finished design in a way that works for engineers and stakeholders alike.

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UI/UX Design

Goal-Directed Product and Service Design

To a greater extent than any other creature, we humans shape the world around us to suit ourselves. Some of that shaping is unintentional, but much of it is deliberate. We create our environments by constructing buildings, roads, furnishings, and landscapes. We make our daily lives easier and more enjoyable by inventing tools, from kitchen utensils and earth-to-orbit spacecraft to social networking and enterprise-spanning IT systems. We communicate with one another in text, imagery, motion, and sound. We even attempt to craft perfect experiences in retail settings and amusement parks. This intentional shaping of the world for mass consumption is often referred to as design.
Clearly, “design” is an incredibly broad term. Do choosing what color to paint your bedroom, sculpting the exterior of a car, and planning a complex application’s technical architecture all have equal claims to the word? People outside of design professions have difficulty drawing the line, and there are so many philosophies and assumptions attached to it that even designers seldom agree on exactly what “design” is.
All of this explains why most design books begin with some definition of the word. For the purposes of this book, at least, design is the craft of visualizing concrete solutions that serve human needs and goals within certain constraints.
Visualizing concrete solutions is the essence of design. These solutions could be tangible products, such as buildings, software, consumer electronics, or advertisements, or they could be services that are intended to provide a specific sort of experience. The inherent aptitude—the drive, even—to imagine the desired end result and express it in a tangible way is what separates designers from non-designers. This doesn’t mean that all designers must be good at illustration; I have known many fine designers whose drawing skills were limited. What designers must excel at is looking at a blank surface and filling it with believable representations of an end product so that other people can see, understand, and eventually build it. Building it is a separate task; designers don’t build products any more than architects build houses. Instead, they provide precise instructions so that builders can focus on accomplishing the end result.
Design is a craft because it is neither science nor art, but somewhere in between. Science is about understanding how the universe works and why it works that way. Design, while it is informed by scientific learning about human senses, cognition, and ergonomics, focuses on understanding only to the extent that it is necessary to solve the problem at hand. Art is about creating an end product that, above all, expresses the inner vision of the artist. Design is not about expressing the designer’s point of view, but it is very much about creation.
In order for design to be design and not art, it must serve human needs and goals. All designed artifacts have a purpose. Good design helps humans accomplish something in an efficient, effective, safe, and enjoyable way. Designers draw on fields like ergonomics and HCI (the study of human-computer interaction) to increase efficiency and minimize the potential for injury. At the same time, designers strive to go beyond the simply functional, since pleasure and aesthetic satisfaction are also important human goals.
Finally, design always happens within certain constraints. There is no such thing as unconstrained design. Unconstrained classroom exercises may teach imagination, but they do not accurately represent the problem-solving nature of design. Time and cost are always factors on even the most ambitious projects. Designers are also constrained in some way by their materials; physical materials have immutable properties, and even the digital medium introduces limitations due to its very lack of a physical nature. Other common constraints include regulatory requirements, competitive pressures, and the various desires of the people bankrolling the project.
Mind you, this definition of design still encompasses a tremendous range of intentionally created artifacts, environments, and processes—types of things humans have been designing for a hundred years or more. Surely, we ought to have this design thing figured out by now. Perhaps this would be the case if it weren’t for an assortment of technologies based on silicon chips. Our increasingly digital age has added a host of new challenges that traditional design, manufacturing, and business mind-sets simply are not equipped to address.

Digital Product and Service Design

This book focuses on the design of the products and services unique to the digital age, including any system or service enabled (at least in part) by a microprocessor. Digital systems include everything from a simple digital alarm clock to complex scientific equipment or supply chain management software. Digitally enabled services might encompass anything from eBay (a service that lets people sell items online) to a comprehensive set of customer touch points for an airline, including its Web site, automated telephone systems, human customer service, and airport check-in.
Although I emphasize the digital realm, the methods described in this book have been applied with equal success to non-digital problems. Over the years, I’ve even heard from non-designers who have used the basic principles to develop everything from church social events to employee benefits programs.
Some people refer to human-centered product and service design as experience design, but I would argue that this term is presumptuous; we can design every aspect of the environment to encourage an optimal experience, but since each person brings her own attitudes, behaviors, and perceptions to any situation, no designer can determine exactly what experience someone has. For this reason, I refer to product and service design—or simply product design, as a service is still the end product of the design effort—throughout the book.
Designing complex products and services requires the talents of several closely related design disciplines, usually some combination of interaction design, graphic and information design, and industrial design. The graphic and industrial design professions are long established, so I won’t define them here, but interaction design is still new enough that degrees in the discipline only started becoming available in the 1990s.
Interaction design is a discipline focused on defining the form and behavior of interactive products, services, and systems. Interaction design answers questions such as:
  • — What activities does the product or service support, and how?
  • — What workflow provides the best way for users to accomplish their goals?
  • — What information do users need at each point in that process?
  • — What information does the system need from users?
  • — How will users move from one activity to another?
  • — How is functionality segmented and manifested?
Because interaction design is focused on what people want to do as well as how they can best accomplish it, it’s common for interaction design to affect product definition, which is about what functionality a product has (as opposed to defining how that functionality is manifest, which is what most people see as the role of design).
Interaction design is often confused with related disciplines known as HCI, human factors or, informally, usability. Training in these fields emphasizes evaluative techniques rather than creative problem-solving skills or methods for generating solutions, which are the focus in design. The line between these professions and interaction design is fuzzy because many people have found their way to interaction design from these fields. Although interaction designers must be versed in the principles of HCI, most interaction designers find more in common with graphic designers and industrial designers than with evaluation-focused HCI professionals. The two approaches result in a difference in worldview much like the one between software engineering and quality assurance: complementary, but not at all interchangeable.
Interaction design may also be confused with Web site information architecture (IA). This field is partially rooted in library science, a discipline that has long focused on how to categorize and organize information for easy retrieval. Some information architects may disagree, but I argue that for all practical purposes, IA is a specialized subset of interaction design. The methods described in this volume work very well for information architecture, though there’s no harm in supplementing them with card sorting and other IA techniques.

Goal-Directed Design

Goal-Directed Design1 is the approach to product and service design developed at Cooper, a leading design consultancy. Its fundamental premise is that the best way to design a successful product is to focus on achieving goals. Although the rhetorical emphasis is on user goals, the method also incorporates the goals of the customers (people who purchase but don’t use a system) and of the business creating the product or service. Goal-Directed Design encompasses th...

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