Design for your customer

Man showing woman a design on a screen

When designing a product, getting caught up in your ideas and opinions can be all too easy. However, it’s important to remember that the ultimate goal is to sell your product to a broad audience. To do this, it’s crucial to design with your customers in mind. In this article, we’ll share why you should always design for your customers and not yourself. You’ll learn about the importance of understanding your market and their needs, avoiding over-designing and its resulting high price tag, and how to gather valuable market intelligence to guide your development process. We’ll also share real-life examples of how our clients have successfully implemented these principles and achieved commercial success. So, if you want to create a product that truly resonates with your target market, read on.

Designing for your customers is crucial for the success of your product. It’s easy to fall into the trap of designing to your preferences, but it’s important to understand your market and their needs first. Use that understanding as your guide in the design process.

Determining which features your customers are drawn to and which add unnecessary costs is important. Avoid over-designing, as this can lead to a high price tag and too many features that can be difficult to communicate to your customers. Gather market feedback and focus on the core needs of your target market. This approach goes hand-in-hand with a minimum viable product strategy, but the minimum approach must still appeal to your target market.

Learning how your customers value a solution early can guide you in the development process and ensure that your product is commercially viable. There are ways to protect your intellectual property while gathering market intelligence, and seeking guidance can help.

Focus groups can be useful but can also be difficult as people may not want to offend anyone, and the feedback may be more positive than helpful. It’s important to continue asking questions throughout the development process and to check back with your customers to see if you’ve hit the mark. Observing users test your solution can provide vital information to improve your product.

A good example is a previous client, WHI Safeguard, who came to us with an idea for lighting on public roads. We encountered a major challenge in the standards, but instead of giving up, they returned to their target customers (equipment hire companies) and asked them what lighting products they lacked. They realised that scaffolding lighting was a major gap in the market and, by working with their target customers, developed a range of lighting products, starting with a scaffolding light.

Significant communication with the target customers during the development process meant that the product was de-risked, and decisions were easy to make because they were driven by customer feedback. Once the product was launched, it was well-received because the core functionality was what the customers wanted, the cost was acceptable, and the product was exactly what they needed.

Avery Dennison is our biggest client to date. As a Fortune-500 business based in California, they employ 30,000 people worldwide and are probably best known for making labels in the UK. However, they also make a range of guillotines and paper trimmers which we were tasked to re-design.

What stood out to us during our work with Avery Dennison was their respect for their customers and their unwavering focus on meeting their needs. For example, the guillotines they sold were mainly used in schools, but their current range only cut 25 sheets in one go. They realised their customers had classes of around 30 pupils and needed a greater cutting capacity.

During the concept phase of the re-design, we came up with many innovative features. But Avery Dennison was brutal about eliminating some of these ideas, as they understood the importance of margins and weren’t prepared to add cost unless their customers wanted it and were prepared to pay more for it. This was a huge lesson for us and showed that although big corporate companies aren’t always the best at innovation, in this case, they were very good at keeping their customers at the heart of all decision-making.

I lost track of the number of focus groups they ran! However, one of our innovative ideas did make it through, a new blade guard that eliminated the need for large plastic pieces sticking up and ready to be broken. Avery Dennison later patented it, and it‘s now part of their product range.

In conclusion, always design for your customers and not for yourself. Understand their needs, gather market feedback, and make decisions that align with their values. This approach ensures that your product is commercially viable and well-received by your target market.

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Bonus 40min extended case-study video!