B2B product managers should look to the consumer market at CES in Las Vegas for market insights. Devices that succeed are increasingly easy to use while managing complex functionality.
A case in point, the technology and mobile devices featured at CES were both functional and aesthetically pleasing, devices like the Coolpad Dyno and the Lenovo Smart Clock. The former features bright colors with animations and large buttons, while the later has a mature and simplistic interface with user-programmable voice control. Although some features and functionality are similar, each product has distinct differentiation and target market. Both were designed by understanding insights from the end user.
So how does this translate to the increasingly complex technology capabilities and the user interfaces for business?
Consumers in business have a similar expectation - a product that is both functional and easy to use. And, consumers expectations are driving their expectations in business. The shift in product design, coupled with advanced technology, gives an indication that there is a market for increasingly complex technologies. However, end users want a simple user interface that elegantly manages them.
If you read the user guide when unboxing a new technology product, not only are you in the minority, but the lack of intuitive understanding takes away from the experience. The perceived value of the product is diminished.
While these burgeoning technologies are necessary and fascinating for technology companies to employ, the growing complexity presents a downside if the user interface (UI) is difficult. When UI design is an afterthought, a business may experience stagnant sales growth, a lag of technology adoption or even similar but superior competitive solutions.
Gain Deep Understanding of the Customer
Thoroughly understanding the customer experience builds empathy for the customer, which is integral to developing effective UI/UX. There are many ways to gain deep understanding of customers, two of the most powerful (and my favorites) being interviews and observation.
Watching, listening and learning as an end user accomplishes tasks – even those not specific to your product – will uncover insights that cannot be derived from a verbal interview. Observation is often the only way to truly validate behavior or understand tendencies that when put in the proper context can result in customer value.
Effective products incorporate and design for UX early in development and prioritize it through the product development lifecycle and subsequent iterations. UI should be given a development trajectory that incorporates a robust customer understanding and extensive feedback from end users for success.
What’s the metal test? You have accomplished your UI/UX goals when your user guide is being used by customers… as a beverage coaster.
Senior Manager IoT Product Management
Acuity Brands Technology Group at Acuity Brands Lighting, Inc.
Curren developed deep domain expertise in engineering, development and strategic positioning of IT-OT solutions from his service in the Navy as well as in business development at GE Power over the past 10+ years. His current focus in the technology group is to drive development, productization and positioning of AtriusTM Assets and AtriusTM LiveView products, which leverage Acuity Brands' Atrius Sensory Network to create value by uncovering business insights.
And, as a Naval Officer, Curren refined his technical acumen, strengthened his strategic thought processes, and developed an innovative mindset. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Systems Engineering from the United States Naval Academy; a Master of Science equivalent in Nuclear Engineering from the US Department of Energy; a Master of Engineering Management from Old Dominion University; and a Master of Business Administration from Scheller College of Business at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
In his spare time, Curren enjoys relaxing with his wife and dog. He stays active by participating in sports leagues, advocating for military veterans and providing youth mentorship.