I was looking at a prototype for a medical drip stand recently. It had excellent ergonomics, and the materials were very contemporary. However, somewhere along the line, the designers lost sight of the end usage of the product. The drip stand had drawers to hold medical supplies. When they were opened, they were hitting the drip tube, making them impractical.
An obvious design flaw. They missed the most important design consideration, which is, "How will the device be used?" This could have been preempted early in the design cycle, by validating the end usage with users.
While usage validation is something every design team should build into the design cycle, it can also help at times to involve an external party partner. This can often bring considerable insights into usage and design considerations, which designers may miss. With design teams now designing products for markets outside their local geographies, the value of partner involvement is higher.
To illustrate this, let me share the real-life case of a European manufacturer who was looking to adapt its elevator range for emerging markets in South Asia. The product customization required it to be redesigned, validated, and tested in the target market to local market needs and for the usage patterns of the new market. To bring in the knowledge of the local market and the related design expertise, the manufacturer partnered with a third-party design house that brought in knowledge of emerging markets and the specialization on usage and design considerations. The outcome of this collaboration was a product that was customized to the new market and launched successfully at a competitive price point.
When assessing a design partner to bring in usage and localization capability, three attributes to look for are:
Understanding of target clients and usage.
Repeatable design frameworks/components that can address the market and deliver speed/cost to market
Optimal connects with an eco-system to take design to manufacturing.
In summary, design after understanding, and regularly validating with, end users. If required, bring in partners who can complement your own capabilities, especially with knowledge of usage considerations and manufacturing/system integration.