Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Panel discussion on Design-Led Innovation

Sitting from L to R: Sashank, 
Sandeep, Greg, Rachel and Steve
TiE Silicon Valley organized a panel discussion on "Design-Led Innovation: Key to building successful Products" on Tuesday, July 23rd. The topic was clearly of interest - as there were 100+ people in attendance.

The panel was moderated by Sashank Deshpande, Co-Founder of Clarice Technologies. Being a graduate of the premier National Institute for Design, Sashank was most certainly qualified to lead this august panel. Sashank offered some brief opening remarks that laid the foundation for the discussion:

  • Designs that bring meaning to our lives
  • The importance of talking to users
  • How do you measure the impact of UX (User Experience)
Sashank went on provide a historical perspective of Usability and Human Computer Interface (HCI) - right from the first compute systems in the 1950s. The initial focus was on B2B systems and the evolution of the Design aspects moved from Usability -> HCI -> Interaction Design -> User Centered Design. As the world started shifting attention to B2C transactions, the center of gravity for Design moved from Visual Design (What is your first impression) to UX or User Experience (is the product triggering the right emotions).

Sashank offered a theory on how product design affects us intrinsically. He used the following diagram to explain his point.
Greg Petroff, GM for User Experience at GE spoke next. He encouraged everyone to make products that are meaningful for everyday people. "Always look at the bigger picture," he said.

Rachel Powers, Senior Director of UX at Oracle spoke about the importance of having engineers go out and talk to people that they are building products for. It could completely change the perspective of what they create.

Steve Portigal of Portigal Consulting, who has written a book on  "Uncovering Compelling Insights by Interviewing Users", talked about the importance of talking to users. This leads to mindset changes and allows you to discover and act on new insights about your customers and yourself.

Sandeep Datar, Senior Director of Design, Yahoo provided a Metrics perspective to Design. 
Sandeep mentioned the ASERT framework to measure the impact of design:
  • Acquire / Onboard users (sign them in with a single click)
  • Surprise / Wow / Amuse / Intrigue (you get one opportunity)
  • Engage and Retain
  • Revenue (convert the user from free to paid)
  • Task simplification - through out the product
The panel was very informative and offered some deep insights from folks who have spent 20+ years in the business. There was 100+ person years of User Design experience amongst the speakers. I felt that having a startup CEO on the panel would have helped invigorate the perspective.  I am sure Tony Fadell or Jonathan Ive would have had a completely different view point. I believe that products should be centered on design. While the panelists were talking about how UX has "turned the corner" and is now an integral part of every product team, Aaron Patzer may have said product teams should build the designs created by the UX team!

At one point, Greg Petroff said, "Jeffrey Immelt does not know me by name. He knows of me as the UX guy". I think that is a problem. Steve Jobs (and I am sure Tim Cook now), on the other hand, would talk to his UX guy every day. Companies like Apple, Nest, Mint and several others have proven that design-centered development can win. 

I am not a designer, but I think designers should be forced to better communicate their thoughts to other team members. They should think more about the problem, rather than opting for the first thing that pops to their mind. This is harder to "enforce" in a Facebook "Like" button world, but it leads to better communication and therefore better products.