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Saturday, May 31, 2008

It's time for geeks to learn about design thinking

One thing about Web20 is that it has clearly brought us to a commoditization of services.
With open source tools and with the decreasing price of computers, it has become very easy and very cheap to build a service in a few weeks. Along with that is the fact that if you have an idea, chances are that someone else somewhere else has had or will have soon the same idea. It is very common to see similar ideas appear within a six months window in various places around the world.
Ideas are all over the place, technology is cheap: online services are just another consumer product.

So how will you make your idea/service stand in front of similar others? My take is it's all in the design of it.
Not design as in cute logo or a weird name that you hope people will remember, but design as in thorough analysis of what users expect and how to best present your service to them. We are talking user interface, thinking about design in anything that will be presented to the consumer, and thinking about how they will use the service to make it as easy as possible for them, including intuitive, pleasant, and efficient. The kind of things Apple did for smartphones with the iPhone, a beautiful demonstration of the power of design to other manufacturers who were focusing on functionality without wondering why very little of it was really usable when they were sticking to the computer metaphor and its ridiculously complex navigation on small screens.

If you are thinking, or in the process, of creating yet another web20 service (and we are just seeing the beginning of the services that web20/30 will bring about), you should consider very seriously investing in design before you do anything. Design thinking will help you confirm who your audience is, how and what you should communicate with them and them with you, making it a complete and coherent experience. And therefore it will help you fine tune the product/service you will create. Or in the worse case it may save you a lot of time and money by allowing you to discover sooner rather than later that your idea was not that great after all. Doing anything else is keeping closer to playing the lottery, and hoping blindly that users will like what you came up with. Some are lucky and win, most don't.

Think design!