Making Something Great

What does it really take to create something great? A product that inspires, delights, amuses and still and serves a purpose. It’s a tough question, and one that elicits many different responses. However some patterns continue to persist over and over again. Below I have listed 9 principles I believe are vital ingredients in the creation of a great product.

  1. Innovation and invention. Contrary to the definition, most inventions are actually based on the inspiration of someone else’s design, or lack there of. It is important to remember to observe and brainstorm with out boundaries. Encourage your team to come up with impossible ideas, original ideas, goofy and wacky ideas. Sure, most will be ridiculous, but one, or two combined may make something no one would have ever considered before. Think about this, Thomas Edison didn’t actually “invent” the light bulb as much as he successfully modified an idea from 50 years earlier and found a way to make it practical.
  2. Design for the future. When you limit your designs to fit within current technological constraints, then you’re doing just that. Limiting your designs. Think out side the box. What if it could do this? What if that existed? Let technology come to you and never take for granted what your developers can come up with. If you have an idea, odds are they can come up with some way to make it happen. Though most won’t admit it, developers can be amazingly creative with technology.
  3. Fail. Fail and be proud of it. You just discovered a solution that doesn’t work, and that is a success. Learn from your mistakes and failure will lead you to a solution. Celebrate it. A culture that isn’t given the opportunity to fail successfully isn’t given the opportunity to succeed.
  4. Don’t forget who you’re designing for. In the end, someone has to be able to use this thing you’re creating. It may be you, it may not be. At some level try to reach out to your audience, the end users. Who ever it is that will ultimately spend time with the product. Quietly sit and watch them use it if you can. Observation can provide you with multitudes of information. User research doesn’t always have to be external either. If the people on your team embody your users, then genuinely using the product yourself can highlight issues and opportunities you never noticed before.
  5. Wash, rinse, and repeat. Remember the first iPod? Have you seen the latest one? It’s still an IPod, but it’s a far cry from where it started. Apple continues to iterate their design and  improve on it. A designers job is never done, so if it’s not broken, make it better. Iteration shouldn’t just be done on the final product either. Iteration should be done on every design leading up to production too. Create as many different solutions as possible then incorporate the best parts of each, and iterate again.
  6. Quality. You may have designed the next big thing, but if your company can’t produce the product to deliver quality performance and stability, it won’t matter. Think about it, would the iPod be as popular if you music skipped? Would Google be as popular if the top 10 search results always took you to error pages? What if it took 5 minutes to perform the search in the first place? Your design needs a solid platform to stand on in order to be successful.
  7. Emotion. Without a little personality, Pinocchio would just be a wooden doll. You have to breathe some life into your product. Give it emotion. This can be done many ways from the way a product looks to the way it responds. Sound, size, color, text, etc. Be friendly.Add delights, little pieces of fun that will make your product that much more enjoyable to use. Simple little niceties can go a long way.
  8. Keep your eye on the ball. When designing be sure to keep a set of core goals in mind at all times. These goals are the purpose of your design, the problem it is trying to solve. This list should be short but clear. Without alignment with these goals you may find your design succumbing to feature creep. Keep you design focused on the point.
  9. Have patience. Great design takes time, and it takes a culture willing to wait for it and work for it. Not every design is a winner either. Find a support network where you can grow your ideas and let them flourish. In the mean time continue to learn and refine your talents on smaller projects. Use this time as an opportunity to prepare your self with the skills you’ll need when a bigger opportunity presents itself.