During a recent interview with a journalist, I saw her scowl at her smartphone. She was disappointed that the smartphone did not provide the basic functionality she needed the most: easy voice recording. Every call and SMS disrupted her recording and forced her to go back and restart the recording. Her requirement was simple: “resume-able” recording, which would be an easy-to-implement feature if the designers had the foresight to plan for the way the consumer would use the device.
Considering real use scenarios during product design can make a significant difference in customer satisfaction levels. Use patterns can better define everything from the industrial design to the internals: the look, feel, and size of the product, GUI, sensors, middleware, and silicon. And the more evolved designers are increasingly adopting this approach across the infotainment and industrial spectrum.
How does this approach work in a real infotainment scenario? Let's take a real-life look at a mobile handset manufacturer addressing the North American market. The manufacturer has segmented its market into three target user segments — teenage gaming and social users, office productivity users, and Internet browsing and voice services users. Each of these segments has diverse design requirements.
Teens expect their mobile devices to handle intensive graphics and data communications. The office goer values connectivity and enterprise integration, while the no-frills user expects good audio and a good display interface. As a result, the form factor, icons, keys, GUI, and every subsequent layer from middleware, operating system, and chipsets to battery management are different for each segment. For the final outcome to be a use-driven product, these requirements need to be kept in mind in the design architecture and manufacturing stages.
To implement this approach, a mobile handset manufacturer needs the ability to:
- Study and anticipate customer use.
- Conceive the product in its entirety. This calls for an ability to relate competency across technologies, like industrial design, GUI, presentation workflows, networking, audio/video/graphics technologies, mobility applications, middleware, silicon, and power management, to the identified use patterns.
- Put together all the building blocks within a stringent time frame, price, and performance point. This calls for interdisciplinary delivery teams, program management, and quality to provide a multifunctional perspective and to facilitate the parallel design of product and process to reduce design iterations and production problems.
Developing all these abilities in-house, at a large scale, is an expensive proposition. Most OEMs are finding that collaboration and co-engineering with R&D and engineering service providers help fill the gaps in the capability spectrum and can allow significant improvement in the realization of use-based designs and the speed to market.
In my next blog, I shall discuss how to identify the right R&D services provider to ensure your next generation product fulfills user expectations. After all, the end user is the new crowned king!