Why Design/Experience innovation is the new awesome!

I had this discussion with a couple of people in the last two weeks, which is a good sign that this may be something to blog about. :-)

The discussions I had were around the ever-growing importance of design and designers in Silicon Valley (in particular, of consumer Internet start-ups) - articles such as this and news like this are great examples of that.

I think this importance for design in the context of consumer Internet startups is because technical innovation is no longer enough to build winning products. In bullet point form,

  • Remember when you went 'Wow!' because something just worked even if it was harder to use than necessary? When that video you uploaded to YouTube just played back; or that photograph you took was online and your friends could see it; or when you got all that free storage space to use. You expect that now and turns out there's always more that one way to do these things now and more than a few services that let you do the same thing. So how will you choose? How you feel about that service is a big part of that decision process - and great design will almost always be required to make you feel like a product is awesome. If the technology is commoditized and the features that really matter are at parity, then design and an emotional connection is the differentiator.
  • Tied to the point above, to make products where technical innovation or advantage (i.e. its faster, bigger etc.) isn't enough, you need genuine insights into consumer behavior and meticulous attention to every detail of the product and how people will use it - so what becomes critical in the development process are insights into what people actually want and how the product can satisfy that - particularly in consumer Internet products where differentiation can be hard to understand and explain.
That's why for a bunch of companies, design really matters; and why great designers matter more than ever


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