Tweak Your Biz » Marketing » Of Design and Function

Of Design and Function



I have recently been involved in a great debate that essentially revolves around the presentation of a product to the market.

Like a-lot of things,  this task was approached more than a little back to front and I am having to go back to the drawing board after the event – time and money being lost as a consequence, but this is not the lesson from this post (of course, don’t ignore it as a lesson though!).

Essentially the debate has revolved around a clever design over the functional requirement of what is being produced. The clever design and aesthetics won out on the first iteration at the expense of making the function clear.  Why? Because the function was clear to those of us involved in what was being created.

What was completely ignored in the original iteration was that the people seeing it who counted i.e. the people who might buy the product!

How on earth did this happen when;

  1. There was a marketing person telling us we needed to make it clear.
  2. Other product marketing sites were looked out and they were spelling it out in black and white what was being sold.
  3. Potential customers had been asked what they would like to see.

Essentially, ego overtook everything and all the good advice that was given by people was ignored. This happened because the product was fully understood and this was translated, incorrectly, to being a case of the market being understood – a very different proposition. A desire to be different and unique was also at the forefront of the original design, but again, this should not have been at the cost of presenting a clear message.

No-one should have needed to ask “what is it you do?”.

Of course great design is an absolute must in helping project a concept into the market. Without great design even the most obvious messages will lose their impact. The key is to make sure that the design does not become primary objective but is used to ensure that the message that you are putting out there is read and is obvious.

What is the point in having pretty wrappings if you are not tempted to unwrap what’s inside? Some businesses intentionally do this to great effect, but for most of us we have to make it obvious to our customers what we are selling. K.I.S.S. definitely applies (Keep it simple stupid).

Have you ever let your ego over-rule what you should have done and suffered as a consequence?



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The Author:

Budding entrepeneur working on software product solutions for business. My background is mainly operational and senior management roles in mobile telecoms and software houses. Areas of expertise include professional services, out-sourcing, team management and general operations management. I've made the conscious decision to create my own company having spent the last 20 years learning in the corporate world. In my contributions to this forum, I will share some insights and learnings that I've picked up along the way and hopefully they will be useful to some or all! http://www.myprojecttracker.com

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  • http://www.channelship.ie/blog/ fred

    Love your analogy Elaine. Great post.
    I believe it’s just the fact that people don’t like “change”, period. I’ll give you a very silly example: When working at an office, how many times you’ve seen pretty much everybody around you complaining becase they “had to move seats”? Moving desks is something normal! especially in bigger companies. I always wondered, if people give out about such a simple thing, I don’t want to know what’s like facing a real problem…

  • http://twitter.com/IrishSmiley Frederique Murphy

    Elaine, great post and love the fresh angle!

    I have been working in Change Management for the last 8 years, so a lot of the things you are saying resonate with me. As a consultant on a Change project or programme, I really believe that we excel at our job by accepting that human resist change, it is normal and it is part of our job to tackle this. Accepting this well know fact, makes it easier for us to plan a strategy on how to smooth things and to manage the change. ;-))

  • http://www.seefincoaching.com/blog Elaine Rogers

    Fred, thanks for the comments.
    For some, a change of seat/desk can literally boot them out of their comfort zone – all sorts of things are implicated: they have to make new acquaintances, they may end up beside someone who intimidates or belittles them, they wont have the benefit of a view of the whole office or outside, they may end up closer to the “boss” etc etc. Its taken as such a personal thing because at the end of the day, it’s all about us! if we begin to look more “outward”, we may see the upsides to moving (the opposites of the earlier suggestions). Good example, as it resonates a lot of common “change” implications.

  • http://www.seefincoaching.com/blog Elaine Rogers

    Hi Frederique,
    Thank you for your insight. Certainly for those implementing the change, would do well do realise that changes always provokes resistance. Even when the current situation is intolerable. some adopt the attitude “better the divil you know”. But as you will appreciate, this is not conducive to progress. It’s OK to feel threatened, but it’s important for staff/Managers to accept that in most cases, the changes will have positive benefits for all concerned. Feel the fear, and go along with it anyway :)
    (actually this inspires a conversation around trust, as lack of trust generates fear – idea growing for another post)

  • http://www.btbtraining.com/blog Niall Devitt

    Elaine, like this a lot! it is so so true. Change equals pain for so many of us but It’s also a fact of life and business. Realising what’s actually happening is the first step towards making change a successful and even pleasant experience. Have a great weekend, Niall

  • Anonymous

    This nice article puts me in mind of an art workshop I was doing once. I was trying to concentrate, be ‘creative’ and produce something worthwhile. Then someone put some music on. I complained and said:”this music is really disturbing me.” My friend replied: “That’s what it’s meant to do.” A little light went on in my head, and I thanked him.

    :0)

  • http://www.channelship.ie/blog fred

    Hi Elaine. I just read this post by Seth Godin… think it’s a great complement http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2010/01/quieting-the-lizard-brain.html

  • http://www.seefincoaching.com/blog Elaine Rogers

    lol – I came across this today – think it explains human nature to a tee –
    “Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don’t turn up at all.”
    (Thanks to Mairead Kelly on Facebook)

  • http://www.seefincoaching.com/blog Elaine Rogers

    That’s a great post by Seth – lot of common sense there and a lot of us don’t even realise that we are sabotaging our own efforts. I call it “getting in our own way”. I spent a lot of time over past few years getting out of my way – just did again the other day. It’s such a relief when we finally do it :)
    Now, just waiting for the same 1000 re-tweets his post got :)

  • http://www.seefincoaching.com/blog Elaine Rogers

    Music, in my mind, solves everything – except concentration – doh!
    There is music every day in my house, except when I am working at home. It comes on when I need just that – a distraction. And it plays every weekend without fail, just listening to Carlos Santana now :)

  • http://www.channelship.ie/ Fred

    Nice one Barney.
    I highly, highly recommend a book for designers and non-designers to understand better “the message blended with design”. It’s called: “Don’t make me think” by Steve Krug.

  • http://blog.myprojecttracker.com Barney Austen

    Thanks Fred. And thanks for the recommended reading too – will look that one up!

  • http://www.wchingya.com wchingya

    A very good reminder. I particularly agree with “What is the point in having pretty wrappings if you are not tempted to unwrap what’s inside?”. Important as it is for a design to look catchy, no point if it runs off the purpose of having one.

  • http://blog.myprojecttracker.com Barney Austen

    Thanks for reading – glad it was a reminder :)

  • http://www.codegaconsulting.com/ Una Coleman

    A great idea never outweights great management to execute it! An outsider’s perspective – let’s call it marekt research – is essential to verify the product market opportunity. Many thanks for this piece Barney.

  • http://www.cgonlinemarketing.com/ Christina Giliberti

    Hi Barney,

    Its only human to be attracted to something pretty. Our nature is visual, so I agree that an offering should display a visual eye-catching message.
    But not at the expense of the basics. Mobile phones are a good example…..that flashy, sexy styling with cute buttons in reality has buttons too small to press, a complicated menu structure and a scratchable surface. The importance of function and simplicity can be missed by shallowless.
    Like the last line!

  • http://blog.myprojecttracker.com Barney Austen

    Thanks for reading Una. I like that “great idea never outweighs great management to execute it” :)

  • http://blog.myprojecttracker.com Barney Austen

    Thanks for reading Christina. Mobile phones are a great example – fair play!

  • http://www.seefincoaching.com/blog Elaine Rogers

    Have you ever let your ego over-rule what you should have done and suffered as a consequence?
    ???
    Absolutely NOT – KISS my Amazingly Smart Smile :-)

  • http://blog.myprojecttracker.com Barney Austen

    Welcome Eric. Thanks for the comment – and you are quite right, once or twice might be ok – but not too many times!

  • http://blog.myprojecttracker.com Barney Austen

    Great to hear from the only person on the planet who has not succumbed to ego for the worse :). Thanks for reading.

  • http://www.garrendennylane.ie/blog Lorna

    I have to admit I’m our accountant’s worst nightmare – have been attempting the ‘putting everything in a file/litle and often’ approach and it has been working to a point. I think we might be going back to the ‘everything in a big box and hand it to the bookkeeper’

    Good post, I found what you said about the spreadsheets interesting as that is what our current accountant has us putting the data on.

  • http://twitter.com/xcelbusiness Helen Cousins

    It’s a pain for business owners to have to keep rooting for stuff & you end up paying for it by being labelled “messy” by the acountant. Hours of futility are charged to your account & your accounts are priced accordingly. Accountants could help themselves & their clients by giving checklists to all clients though. For the record, I hate doing the books for my own business! Thanks Niall
    ~ Helen

  • http://twitter.com/xcelbusiness Helen Cousins

    Outsourcing to (or even employing) a good bookkeeper can be very cost effective. They will devote time to tracking down missing invoices, making sure you claim all your VAT back, ensure you are tax compliant, get the money in and out efficiently - no more lost weekends! This frees business owners up to work on the business – what they are best at! 
    I expect people, (even accountants), to challenge me on the spreadsheet point. Spreadsheets are commonly used, can cause serious errors, and are not giving valuable info to the client in most cases.  
    I did a lot of work with the small business unit of a big 4 accountancy firm and client spreadsheets were a nightmare. For instance – a chap who likes everything in order inserts 2 rows to pop in one missing invoice. Without boring you with a step by step – he updated the formula to add everything up. The result? All of the invoices that came before the inserted invoice were not added into totals. He used those totals to calculate his VAT payable and made an incorrect VAT return. He seriously underpaid his VAT as a result & was incredulous that he had made a mistake, because he had used a spreadsheet. He thought he had removed the potential for error…
    I won’t go on – it could be another blog post! Actually it will :)
    Thanks Lorna.
    ~Helen

  • http://www.smartsolutions.ie/blog/ Elaine Rogers

    Great timely piece Helen. Spreadsheets burned me badly a couple of years ago when I was relying on them for my debtors. Indeed I was using an accs package to some degree but relying on spreadsheets too much (because I am good with them). I was so good, I missed invoicing 2 clients for work done. 1000 euro was finally retrieved the following year (because I have great clients) but I agree about relying on spreadsheets.

    Little and often, I am a firm believer, but I don’t do it!!! I leave everything for a couple of months, and then because I do have a great filing system, and am highly organised, blitz everything in half a day.

    Book-keeping, I am beginning to think it is a good idea to outsource a couple of hours a week/month, depending on the business, because like you say, it gives back valuable time to the business owner, if even just their Saturday morning

  • http://twitter.com/xcelbusiness Helen Cousins

    Some good points there Elaine  – a nice addition to the post. Thank you,
    ~ Helen

  • Prashant

    Spreadsheets are no longer advisable. Even desktop accounting software is passe. The best solution for small businesses would be to go for an online accounting software like the one we offer at Zoho: Zoho Books. There are numerous benefits to move your accounting to web; you need not worry about backup, it is accessible anywhere and anytime; your accountant can just login to the service and review your transactions online and lot more.

  • http://twitter.com/xcelbusiness Helen Cousins

    The voice of experience speaks volumes! Thanks for adding to the post Mary.

  • http://twitter.com/xcelbusiness Helen Cousins

    Why, thank you ;) ~Helen

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