My wife and I are in the final few days of a kitchen remodel. As anyone who's ever lived through a remodel can attest to, it is a big undertaking that can really disrupt an otherwise normal home life. However, for a designer it can also be a time to get re-inspired by the creative process.
As a designer, I took on the challenge of designing the kitchen myself. I knew there would be risks but I also knew that I could also create a space that matched our family's personality much better than anyone else could.
Ok, I know what you are thinking, what does this have to do with the practice of design at Symantec. My answer is that it has everything to do with designing and delivering a product that meets the needs of your audience. I will address three key points that will explain what I mean.
1. Understand industry best practices.
At Symantec, it is our mission to protect our customers’ connected experiences. There are things we do as best practices that are just common sense in our industry. For example, tell customers what you are doing – show the status of a system scan in real-time and when the scan is complete, show a summary of the actions taken.
When remodeling a kitchen, there are also best practices. For example, many people are familiar with the work triangle and kitchen layouts. With our kitchen remodel, it was clear that we needed to move our dishwasher. There was no easy way to unload the dishwasher – the work triangle for this task didn't exist.
In both cases, designers need to understand how to use what others consider baseline knowledge for the industry. In other words, don't reinvent the wheel. Following best practices is a quick way to improve user experience.
2. Know your customers' pain-points.
For Symantec customers, one of the biggest pain-points is feeling secure in a connected world. As a designer, you want to make sure you address this concern by instilling confidence. You want the customer to feel they are in control and they are protected. As an example, giving customers the ability to control the frequency and timing of virus scans can address this pain-point.
There was one clear pain-point that overshadowed all others with our original kitchen – counter space. It was not that we didn't have enough, it was that we didn't have enough uninterrupted counter space. When we wanted to bake, the mixer needed to be on one side of the cook top and the rolling area on the other. It was not a good use of space and it made baking a chore.
To understand the pain-points is to have empathy for your customers. If you can design with empathy, you have a better chance of solving the pain-points that really matter.
3. Think about the wow factor.
Do we design for the wow factor with Symantec experiences? Yes, of course we do. Are we always successful in creating unexpected wow? Probably not. The point is that you need to think of customers as people who have emotional needs.
One good example is letting people easily add storage to a product – like Norton 360 – which has online storage. Is this wow? I believe it is if the experience is frictionless and forgettable. Sounds contradictory but if I were to ask you about your last purchase on your favorite shopping site, could you tell me how many pages it took to checkout? I bet you'd be more interested in telling me about the joy of receiving your item.
There was one area I knew could have a wow factor in our kitchen remodel. I knew my wife wanted to get ride of the upper cabinets that separated the kitchen from the playroom. I also knew that if I could do this without loosing cupboard space, my wife would be extremely happy. Loosing the cupboard would let us talk to our guests and see our backyard while preparing meals.
In designing for the wow factor, you need to truly understand the "what" and the "why" behind what customers are saying (or doing). If you don't talk to customers or watch how your product fits into their lives, you may never get that wow factor.
Did I hit the mark with the remodel?
Yes. I solved the usability issues around unloading the dishwasher by using industry best practices – the work triangle. We no longer strain to unload the dishwasher. I removed pain-points around baking and meal prep by having uninterrupted counter space. Cooking is now a joy and our kids are starting to get more involved in the process. As for the wow factor, we have that too. We can now see the backyard and talk to guests while doing meal prep. All in all, the space is much more usable and much more fun to work in thanks to the principles I used to redesign our kitchen.