Friday, January 5, 2007

The Best of 2006 Illustrates the Importance of Knowing Your Customer

I was reading the BusinessWeek article on the Best Product Design of 2006 and there were more than a few mentions of how important gathering data on your customers is. Nice to see that this is finally sticking. Maybe all the upstream swimming we have done in the user experience community over the last decade is paying off, or maybe we held it back with all our whining (joke?). Either way it is becoming, as the article says, "an executive core competency."

This one comment intrigued me:

Juror Don Norman (author of Emotional Design and The Design of Everyday Things said: "At first the judges said 'yuck' to the design but then changed their minds when the research showed the Chinese didn't want our sleek U.S. design but their own from their own culture."

I think that the overwhelming majority of companies out there that design products still do not incorporate gathering customer data in the product lifecycle. The result is too many decisions being made at the 'yuck' moment.

So how do you measure this as a failure? Measuring a products performance and quality is a part of all good process-oriented firms. Rarely do we see companies testing to see if the customer loved something or thought it was cool. Probably because it's not easy. We move from a simple to evaluate metrics realm into the complex to judge subjective world. It's not clear to most on how to put subjective evaluation into an Excel file.

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