Five lessons from Apple’s design process

Five lessons we can learn from Apple's product design process

In August 2018, Apple became the first publicly traded company in the world to hit a one trillion dollar market cap. And they didn’t get to that point by developing bad products. In fact, Apple is arguably the best product design company in the world, having a monopoly on almost half of all smartphone sales, and having developed some of the most innovative computers, laptops, headphones and smartwatches of all time. 

For decades, Apple’s winning product design strategy was kept secret. That was until Ken Kashender published an incredible book delving deep into the science behind Apple’s product design and breaking apart what makes them the hyper-successful company they are today. As it turns out, there are five key lessons we can all learn from Apple’s product design to make better decisions when it comes to developing our ideas. Here are those five pieces of advice. 

Focus on developing quality products

You may be thinking this goes without saying, and to a certain degree you’d be right. However, developing a quality product isn’t just about making something that looks nice in an Amazon listing, or using durable materials in its build. Quality products solve problems, are easy to use, look fantastic, come at a reasonable price, and importantly, they lead innovation in their field. 

What comes through time and time again in Kashender’s book is that Apple has an extremely passionate focus on developing awesome products for their customers. Various members of Apple’s design team over the years have spilled the beans on how dialled-in Steve Jobs was on product design. As the head of a multi-billion dollar company you know he would have a huge number of responsibilities to attend to, yet Steve Jobs’ priority above everything else was being a key part of the decisions in product development. 

If you want to develop great products and be a leader of innovation within your industry, it is critical that you become almost obsessive about quality product development. 

Have empathy towards the end user

Your end consumer’s feelings towards your product will make or break its success in the market. Customers and retailers are the people who will make the cogs in your business turn, so it’s vital that you don’t neglect them at any point in the product design process. In Ken’s book, he repeatedly stresses how Apple’s design team was very empathetic towards the end user.

Apple understands the needs and desires of their target customers intimately, and are empathetic of how the end user is going to use their products. To make sure you make the best product design decisions and achieve great results for your product, you need to imitate Apple, and have empathy for the end user. 

Create useful and meaningful solutions

Another trait that makes Apple extremely successful in the product design space is that they make useful and meaningful solutions to real problems. Many technology companies nowadays are simply developing new stuff just for the sake of it. Apple however is very passionate about designing products that solve problems in their customers’ lives.

Having a deep understanding of your customers’ problems and how your product can solve them while providing a brilliant user experience is vital. Making a product that’s cool or groundbreaking is one thing, but it’s much more challenging to make something that consumers want to use every day, and are happy to pay a premium for. When you overcome this challenge and start creating useful and meaningful solutions, you’ll find increased success in your market. 

Build intuitive and simple products

Have you ever received a product you bought online, unboxed it, and were immediately confused about how to use it? Maybe it wasn’t immediately obvious what you had to do to get it working, and you had to refer to a poorly-written instruction booklet to figure it out. This whole experience leaves a very sour taste in your mouth, wastes your time and gives you a bad impression of the company who sold you the subpar product. 

People are busy and stressed, and don’t want to waste time figuring your product out. You may have a vision for a bunch of special features or cutting edge technology, but if your end user doesn’t find it intuitive and easy to use, then none of it means anything. Apple understands this very well, and constantly works to make their devices as straightforward to use and navigate as possible. Their ultimate goal is to get to a point where a child could easily learn how to use their products. How many kids have you seen glued to their iPads? This is testament to how successful Apple has been with making their products intuitive and easy to use.

Don’t rush initial development

Great ideas take time to form, and great product design often takes many prototypes. When it comes to initially developing your idea, you shouldn’t nail anything down too fast. In his book, Ken describes how Apple uses the “10-3-1 method” to narrow down their ideas until they had the absolute perfect product to take to market. 

Apple’s design team is tasked with coming up with ten exciting new product concepts to develop, using all the best creative blue sky thinking they can. Those ten ideas are then reviewed and narrowed down to the three best or most viable. Then those three are further narrowed down to one winner, an idea that had the best potential, most benefits to the end user, and was most practical to develop. What you should take away from this is that you should be brainstorming as many possible concepts as you can at the start of product development, and try to encapsulate as many new ideas as possible. 

Don’t limit yourself at the start of initial development. Be open minded to as many ideas as possible, then use a critical and rational approach to shorten your list down to the very best product. The 10-3-1 approach will allow you to hone into a final product that end users will love.

To create a successful product, you need a wide understanding of your target market and the ingenuity to build something that solves a problem. Having a few extra minds on your team can help you create an innovative solution faster. D2M offers Innovation Workshops, where our experienced design team exercises their creativity to come up with a wide range of ideas for your product.

Sometimes this can be the beginnings of a new product range, or features and functionality for the next generation of your product. You can find out more about our Innovation Workshops here.

On this page

From idea

to successful

product

All the resources you will need:

Bonus 40min extended case-study video!