This post was based off a question I received from a designer friend of mine. When he originally reached out, he said:
As the sole designer for a startup fin-tech product, I am trying to get a feel of what it would be like to take a company from the ground and raise the brand and the product to the level of something akin to Iris. I would love to get your take on that by asking 1 question? At Iris, what were three things that you focused on, to take the design of the brand and the product to the next level?
I had the privilege and pain as the sole designer at my first startup and until about a month ago, I was for Iris as well. It certainly has its pros and cons. However, I’m now beyond happy and grateful to have someone on my team that helps elevate Iris’s brand and product, and push it to levels I couldn’t have alone.
But regardless of being the sole designer or one of many, I’ve found myself asking the same question: How do we make this a world class product? In the quest for that answer, each of the products I’ve worked on had these 3 things in common:
The product is easy to use, grasp, and stands out amongst competitors. In uncharted or traditional markets with slow innovation cycles, simple easy-to-use products can be a real game changer, because it makes something that was previously difficult approachable and enjoyable to use.
I’m a big fan of clear over clever, every time. There should be nothing over-the-top, and at Iris, we have a only few animations, interactions and other details that end up making a big difference. As cliché as it may sound, those little details make a difference. But we don’t over-do it.
When building products, throughout the process, I continually ask myself:
How can we make this as close to timeless design as possible?
I say “as close” because with software design and startups in general, as time goes on and the company and brand evolve, that needs to be accounted for. Even if consumers don’t get the reason initially. People often have difficulty with change, but the product needs to be raised to a new level. Even if it’s changing the color from dark blue to light. Like Volkswagen said:
How to make a ’54 look like a ’64. Paint it.
You can always test these things out. But even there, despite data being a phenomenal asset, it tells a story in between the lines. Always pay attention to what your gut tells you.
What can be removed?
Just the other day, I saw this tweet and it speaks for design in a lot of ways as well.
“Write code that’s easy to delete, not easy to extend.”— Ben Nadel (@BenNadel) February 14, 2017
… is one of the best pieces of programming advice I’ve ever read.
I think there is this belief that we have to continually add because “the user will totally need this” and often, it’s a lie to satiate designer’s that feel the need to over-engineer things.
With every move, keep it simple, but not too much to where you end up sacrificing the clarity of the problem you intended to solve in the first place.
Any great product I’ve ever seen had a way with color and communication, making you feel content or happy.
My first company Liberio, was a platform for self-publishers to create and publish eBooks. We catered to the education and writing community predominately, so using simple language and friendly colors that popped the way you’d see in a school-like setting were key.
For Iris, it’s an emergency alert platform with a UI that is predominately invisible, which meant visual design got a bit tricky. A few things we had to tackle were:
In the branding, how do we express empathy, commitment and compassion as a health product without having a typical looking health logo? We are a product that is most relevant in moments of (typically) chaos, so this was crucial.
How do we deliver positivity but straightforwardness in the way we communicate with our users in a critical moment? We have to ensure that while we are there for them in their moment of need as comfort, it’s first and foremost important they have the relevant information as clear and concise as possible.
Of the UI that is there, we used a typeface (and font-weights) and colors that were professional but felt human, to ensure the above points always were achieved.
A product’s communication design establishes trust amongst users—from words to colors. It let’s them know they can depend on us. That they can come and should come back.
Your product should be designed in a way that ensures the pieces to the puzzle immediately click for a user, no matter where they may find you—be it a billboard, website or app store promotion. And the interactions with all should always be equally delightful.
Above all, our job as product people is to solve a problem at hand. And in doing so, we test to learn more about our users, establish relationships with them, and provide them with continual support as they figure out whether or not we are the product that satisfies their needs.
But whether it’s at home reading a book, catching up with a long-lost friend, there is nothing we love more than to pick up wherever we left off. To come back to something we understand, love and depend on, no matter the time period in between the last and now. And if you do it right, they’ll treat your product the same.
What have you found to hold true for elevating a brand and product? Did you find any different attributes? Let’s chat about this on Twitter.
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