Are you a designer? Do you feel like that service design brief hit you in the face with a three-pound hammer? No worries. You’ll manage just fine. This article might help you with that. We’ll go through the universal user steps that we consider in almost any customer journey. Also, we’ll cover a few key research questions to ask during each user step.
Note that not all service designs will have an impact on all user steps. And note that not all user steps must be performed by the same user. And now that I think about it there’s a whole other bunch of notes. But let’s not go there. That’s content for a future blog post.
Guess that’s enough for an intro. So let’s hop to the universal user steps and the corresponding research questions you should try to answer.
The first step in any customer journey is that someone -let’s call her Lisa- must get aware of a user problem. During this step, Lisa can also learn about your value propositions to solve the problem. Lisa isn’t necessarily your end user though. Maybe her kids are. Key questions to ask yourself as a service designer are:
- Who should be the discoverer? (e.g. Lisa, her husband, her kid, her doctor,..)
- What should be the discovery environment? (e.g. a hotel room, a social media platform,..)
- What features or functions should the system have to enable this step? (e.g. ability to target marketing messages to specific user groups)
- Which user needs are we aiming for here? (e.g. lowering the user’s effort to understand the your value proposition)
This step is about getting access to the product or service. You buy it. Then you get it -or at least you get a document as proof that you own the thing. This step can be physical (the sales guy hands you your new shoes) or digital (you get a mail, thanking you for purchasing that concert ticket). Key questions for service designers:
- Who should be the acquirer? (e.g. Lisa, her boss,..)
- What should be the acquisition environment? (e.g. a desk near the entrance of the event)
- What features or functions should the system have to enable this step? (e.g. ability to provide proof of owning a valid concert ticket)
- Which user needs are we aiming for here? (e.g. lowering the user’s effort to acquire concert tickets)
Your solution may need to be relocated. Say Lisa bought a washing machine. That thing needs to get to her place, scratch free preferably. Ask yourself this:
- Who should be the transporter? (e.g. Lisa, a UPS guy, an FTE from the company that sells washing machines,..)
- What should be the transport environment? (e.g. Lisa’s car, a UPS van, a cargo bike,..)
- What features or functions should the system have to enable this step? (e.g. ability to absorb shocks on a bumpy road)
- Which user needs are we aiming for here? (e.g. lowering the risk of damage during transport, lowering the effort Lisa needs to put in, minimizing the transportation time,..)
4: Store before useLisa ordered her groceries online. These products need to be stored at some point, regardless of whether the groceries are delivered or take-away.
- Who should be the safekeeper? (e.g. a grocery store FTE, Lisa, her neighbor,..)
- What should be the storage environment? (e.g. a separate storage space in the store, a cooled reusable box at the front door,..)
- What features or functions should the system have to enable this step? (e.g. ability to stack multiple boxes, to keep groceries cool for a few hours,..)
- Which user needs are we aiming for here? (e.g. minimizing the space needed for storage)
Let’s get back to the washing machine. Lisa needs to have this product installed before she can use it. The installation is all about getting a solution in place so that the user can start using it. Again, the one doing the installation isn’t always the end user.
- Who should be the installer? (Lisa, the delivery guy,..)
- What should be the installation environment? (e.g. a tiny room on the 5th floor)
- What features or functions should the system have to enable this step? (e.g. a step-by-step guide, troubleshooting,..)
- Which user needs are we aiming for here? (e.g. minimizing the amount of actions/technical knowledge/handyman tools/skills/.. needed to install the washing machine)
6: Set up
Okay, so the washing machine has power supply and is connected to the water pipes. Now someone needs to configure the machine. You know the questions by now, don’t you?
- Who should be the configurator? (e.g. Lisa, a tech person, the machine itself,..)
- What should be the configuration environment? (e.g. an app on your phone)
- What features or functions should the system have to enable this step? (e.g. ability to set sound volume, clock settings,..)
- Which user needs are we aiming for here? (e.g. minimizing the set-up time)
7: Learn to use
A user needs to learn how to configure, use and maintain the solution.
- Who should be the learner? (e.g. Lisa, a tech support person,..)
- What should be the learning environment? (e.g. an app, website, a display on the washing machine, a classroom,..)
- What features or functions should the system have to enable this step? (e.g. ability to give feedback during use)
- Which user needs are we aiming for here? (e.g. minimizing the learning efforts)
8: Prepare and confirm
This step is about making the solution ready to use. Someone must hit the power button of that washing machine, feed it with washing powder and some fabric softener maybe. Also clicking ‘start washing’ is part of this step.
- Who should be the initiator?
- What should be the preparation environment?
- What features or functions should the system have to enable this step? (e.g. the washing machine should be able to alert the user if (s)he forgot to add washing powder)
- Which user needs are we aiming for here? (e.g. minimizing room for human errors, like forgetting to add washing powder)
9: Execute and operate
This is when the end user actually uses your solution to get something done. That ‘something’ is the user’s reason for using your solution. Lisa wants clean clothes. That’s why she uses the washing machine. The end user is not always the consumer. Maybe Lisa has a laundry business and she uses washing machines to clean clothes for her customers. In this case Lisa is still the end user of the machine, but her clients are the consumers of Lisa’s services.
- Who should be the end user? (Lisa, Lisa’s customers,..)
- What should be the operating environment? (a laundry room in a house, an industrial laundry room,..)
- What features or functions should the system have to enable this step? (e.g. the washing machine should be able to source water)
- Which user needs are we aiming for here? (e.g. maximizing the amount of clothes one can wash in a single go, minimizing the time needed to get clean clothes,..)
During this step Lisa gets feedback from her washing machine to check if the machine is running smoothly or if something is wrong.
- Who should be the examiner? (Lisa, a tech support person,..)
- What should be the monitoring environment? (an app that comes with the washing machine, an on-machine display, a remote display in another room,..)
- What features or functions should the system have to enable this step? (e.g. the washing machine should measure temperatures, humidity levels, vibration patterns,..)
- Which user needs are we aiming for here? (e.g. maximizing the amount of relevant data for the examiner, minimizing the risk of long/costly repairments,..)
Now we’re ending the usage of our solution. This is Lisa taking out the freshly washed clothes.
- Who should be the one ending this step? (Lisa, the machine itself,..)
- What should be the operating environment? (a laundry room in a house, an industrial laundry room,..)
- What features or functions should the system have to enable this step? (e.g. the washing machine should be able to call someone to take out the clothes, to turn itself off,..)
- Which user needs are we aiming for here? (e.g. reducing the risk that humid clothes stay in the machine long after the washing process has ended)
Let’s drop the washing machine example for a better one. Lisa also owns a motorcycle. She enjoys taking it for long rides on the curvy roads in her country. But she also loves the cleaning process. Wiping the dirt off that retro bike provides her with and a meditative sense of awareness and fulfilment.
- Who should be the cleaner? (Lisa, a professional bike servicer,..)
- What should be the cleaning environment? (Lisa’s garage, an outdoor spot near the garage,..)
- What features or functions should the system have to enable this step? (e.g. the ability to easily access vital parts of the engine that need regular cleaning, the ability easily access cleaning tools that speed up or ease the cleaning process, the ability to withstand detergents,..)
- Which user needs are we aiming for here? (e.g. reducing the risk of high maintenance bills, maximizing the enjoyment the user gets from cleaning the bike,..)
13: Store after use
After Lisa has cleaned her bike, she looks at it with satisfaction for a few seconds. Time to store the machine until the next ride.
- Who should be the safekeeper? (Lisa, a professional bike servicer,..)
- What should be the storage environment? (Lisa’s garage, an outdoor spot near the house,..)
- What features or functions should the system have to enable this step? (e.g. the ability to withstand rainy and cold weather, the ability to withstand theft,..)
- Which user needs are we aiming for here? (e.g. minimizing the amount of space needed for storing the bike, maximizing the feeling of certainty that nothing will happen to the bike,..)
Users may want to replace parts of a product or add new stuff to it. This can be software or hardware upgrades. Lisa picked the latter. She likes the original looks of her motorcycle, but she did purchase a windshield to upgrade the riding comfort.
- Who should be the upgrader? (Lisa, a professional bike servicer,..)
- What should be the upgrade environment? (Lisa’s garage, an outdoor spot near the garage,..)
- What features or functions should the system have to enable this step? (e.g. the ability to install third-party components)
- Which user needs are we aiming for here? (e.g. maximizing the amount of possibilities for adding third-party components)
You could say that cleaning the bike is also maintaining the bike. You’re right. Maintenance goes a little further though. It’s checking the oil, maintaining the tire pressure or even changing the tires -okay, that’s upgrading if you will. See how these user steps can blend into each other sometimes?
- Who should be the maintainer? (Lisa, a professional bike servicer,..)
- What should be the maintenance environment? (Lisa’s garage, an outdoor spot near the garage,..)
- What features or functions should the system have to enable this step? (e.g. the ability to easily access vital parts of the engine, the ability easily access maintenance tools for common maintenance rituals,..)
- Which user needs are we aiming for here? (e.g. reducing the amount of maintenance needed, maximizing the ease of maintenance rituals,..)
It’s a beautiful Saturday morning. Lisa filled her Kambukka thermos flask to the brim with hot coffee, puts on her helmet and pushes her motorcycle off the driveway. She only plans to return once the sun goes down. But the damn engine won’t start. She checks the battery and the start relay. Nothing wrong there. Fuck that. This is where her technical knowledge on bikes ends.
- Who should be the one to repair the bike? (Lisa, a professional bike servicer,..)
- What should be the repairment environment? (Lisa’s garage, a professional garage,..)
- What features or functions should the system have to enable this step? (e.g. the ability to access every single part of the bike, the ability suggest what’s wrong with the bike,..)
- Which user needs are we aiming for here? (e.g. maximizing the lifetime of each part, minimizing the amount of repairments,..)
Fast forward to 2040. Combustion engines aren’t allowed in nearby city centers anymore. Lisa cannot drive or sell her bike anymore. She took good care of her bike but the thing has finally come to an end. In 2040 we cannot dump a bike on some graveyard. We should disassemble and recycle as much as possible.
- Who should be the disposer? (Lisa, the seller of the bike, the manufacturer of the bike,..)
- What should be the disposal environment? (e.g. a local drop-off point)
- What features or functions should the system have to enable this step? (e.g. the ability to disassemble into single materials)
- Which user needs are we aiming for here? (e.g. maximizing the amount of materials that can be recycled)
Trick questionYou fill out a form and there’s a question that tricks you into giving an answer you did not mean to give. The question seems to ask for one thing, but when read carefully it actually asks for something else.
MisdirectionA very common one. Misdirection draws your attention to something so that you wouldn’t notice the other thing that the company doesn’t want you to see.
ConfirmshamingThis dark pattern makes a person feel bad for opting out. You often see examples of confirmshaming when you’re about to decline a special offer, delete something from your shopping cart, or when a site or app tries to convince you to subscribe for the newsletter.
Sneak into basketYou’re in the process of buying something online and at some point an extra item is added to your basket without your conscious consent. This often happens if you did not check or uncheck a box. To make it even worse that extra item in your basket sometimes only becomes clearly visible a few pages later. Luckily this dark patterns has become illegal is some EU countries.
Roach motelThis one is extremely dirty. It’s when you can very easily get into a situation -often it’s being subscribed- but it’s made very hard for you to leave that situation. Maybe you just wanted to buy some headphones but the webshop sneaked a subscription to a DJ magazine into your basket. You should have carefully read the small letters and uncheck a box to decline the magazine subscription. But you didn’t. A few weeks later you get this unfamiliar magazine delivered to your doorstep. Maybe it’s a free trial? One month later you get another one. You check your bank account and notice that you’ve made 2 payments of €12 to some unknown recipient. Time to find out how to unsubscribe and possibly reclaim that money!
Privacy ZuckeringYup, this one is named after that guy from Facebook. Privacy Zuckering happens when you share more information about yourself than you wanted to share. Your shopping behavior, your sexual kinks, your mental health and the places you like to go to are known. This data is all captured and traded without much regulations between companies behind the scenes. The data brokerage industry may have dramatic effects on your future quality of life. It could affect your chances of getting a loan or a job for instance if your bank or interviewer has bought some of that information about you.
Price comparison preventionThis one prevents you from making an informed purchase because you cannot compare the price of an item with relevant other items. Instead, you get to see items that are unrelated or that are somewhat related but hard to compare.
Hidden costsWhen you only get to see the extra costs you have to pay once you’re at the checkout, you’re the victim of hidden costs. You’ve committed to purchasing an item by adding it to your basket and you went through the entire process of getting it delivered. You created an account and entered your address, payment details and what not. Okay. All that work has been done and you’re one click away from ordering. That’s when the hidden costs are mentioned. Fuck. There’s no way back now.
Bait and switchSo you’re clicking or tapping to deal with something, but your actions result into the opposite outcome of the one you wanted. You were lured into performing the wrong action.
Disguised adsPretty self-explanatory name. These are ads that don’t look like ads. The purpose of this of course is to make people click more ads because this generates money.
Forced continuityHey, why not try this great stock analysis tool for free for a month? Sure! But after a few hours you feel like the tool cannot really offer you the value you’re looking for and you return to your old ways of working. After that month has passed you are silently becoming a paying customer for the tool and each month a fixed amount gets taken from your credit card. Only after you’ve noticed the weird bank statements you find out what’s been happening. Now you’re facing the challenge of stopping these automatic renewals. That’s rarely an easy thing to do.
Friend spamSometimes you get a message from someone you know a little and the message just feels a bit weird. You get an email or a chat message from this person who’s recommending a product out of nowhere.
Show the system statusAn interface must always inform the user about what the system behind that interface is doing. When users know the status of the system, they know what effect their actions have on the system and they can anticipate on what to do next.
Copy the industry standardsAt Achilles we’ve designed drinking bottles for a brand called Kambukka. People have used drinking bottles before they purchase a Kambukka bottle. If our bottle would open by turning the cap clockwise, users would be confused because all other bottle caps in the world must be turned counterclockwise to drink. So it’s a no-brainer to copy what the industry has been doing.
Error messages and solution suggestionsA display that says ERROR43//45.v won’t be helpful to most users. Instead, pinpoint what the current problem is all about in a language that your user will understand. Then explain what the user must do to solve the problem. Always support your error message and solution suggestions with enough visual support so that people notice the error and understand what to do.
A different approach to innovationIt is easy. It’s called Systematic Inventive Thinking (SIT). This thinking technique was born in Isreal in the ‘90s. SIT is a simpler version of the TRIZ approach that Russian engineer Genrich Altshuller proposed half a century earlier. With SIT, you only consider 5 easy thinking methods for creative problem solving. They are easy because all 5 methods look at what’s ‘inside the box’. What does that mean? That there’s no need to look at other industries or unfamiliar solutions. All you need to look at is the product you are trying to improve. Break it down into different components and reshuffle them.
RemoveAre there elements in your design that you can get rid of? Many innovations are based on this method. Think of iPhones. Designers removed physical buttons and audio jacks. The first removal was a direct added value to the end user, while the latter was a clever way to boost AirPod sales. Also the digital interface of iPhones got redesigned by removing elements. Graphics got simpler and user steps are reduced so that users can get a job done with fewer taps or swipes. Or think of Apple Pay, which makes payments more convenient by the reduction of steps a user must perform. Just to say that removals can also be applied to service design.
MultiplyThis is the opposite of the first method. Here, it’s all about what you can add. Is there something in your design that users might want more of? Maybe your user wants more cable length, battery life, pixels or more data storage? Staying within the Apple ecosystem examples here; Apple sells consumers an expensive phone with shitty storage capacity. But for a marginal extra cost, users can double that capacity to get a fair deal. It’s a dirty technique to convince people to spend even more on a phone, as opposed to a world in which Apple would have true value for money already on the entry-level models. The key takeaway here is to understand what existing product features your users want more of. It is not about adding entirely new features, but about increasing what’s already loved. It’s adding storage capacity rather than adding a bulletproof, strawberry-tasting coating to your phone.
DivideBreak down your problem or product into smaller parts that you can easily reshuffle to find new ideas. Nintendo divided the Switch console into different parts instead of launching it as just one product. Doing so, the designers created more playing scenarios and products. A trilogy is another example of this technique. Sure, you can create just one game, book or movie. But why not increase the total (perceived) value by releasing three -or more- separate products? The teams behind The Dark Knight or The Matrix understood this. Or think of divisions in the user steps of a customer journey. An example of this is the separation of steps in online shopping; A customer can buy sneakers right now and pay at a later date. Sales go boom.
ConsolidateThink of what jobs you can combine in one element of your product. When I look around here at home I already see quite a few designs that use this design technique. The power button on my headphones is also the button to check my battery level and to start the Bluetooth pairing. My right earcup has a touchscreen to a.o. skip or pause songs, fast forward and backward in song, to manage my volume, its noise-cancelling feature and to take calls. Or take my sofa. It’s not only a sofa. You can also turn it into a double guest bed, and it has extra storage space underneath it as well.
Rework relationsProducts often have predictable relations with other elements (external), or with the product itself (internal). An example of an external relation is your laptop reacting to the light intensity of its surroundings. As your office gets brighter, the screen of your laptop does the same to guarantee readability on the screen. An internal relation could be that the screen brightness goes down again because your battery is almost dead. It’s the laptop reacting to itself. Look for what relations exist and try to redesign them. You may want to create a new relation -like the screen brightness feature- but maybe you want to break an existing relation. A predicable relation you could break is that of liquids entering the inside of laptops and broken laptops. How could you design your laptop so that you don’t need to worry about anything if you want to get some work done in the pool, or when working outside on a rainy day?
1 SerendipityMany innovations are just lucky accidents. Post-Its are an example of that. Someone at 3M accidently found an adhesive that seemed useless at first because it only stuck lightly. A few years later, another scientist at the company saw an opportunity to use the adhesive to create sticky bookmarks with it. This later became the Post-It we still use today. Post-Its, popcorn, Velcro,.. None of these inventions were planned. No one proposed a design challenge, but these accidents all turned out to be valuable.
2 RecombinationA new idea or a new design is always built upon knowledge you derived from others. Creativity is only the combination of pre-existing elements. Take Darwin. He would not have made his discoveries if he did not have access to previous writings from scientists before him.
3 Incremental improvementYour smartphone is probably better-performing and it has more attractive features compared to the model you owned ten years ago. The same counts for your car, your headphones or your coffee machine. None of these products are designed from scratch. Their development takes knowledge from previous designs and combines this with e.g. knowledge on newly discovered technological improvements or societal trends.
Your collaboration setup
Moonbird: A handheld tool for personalised breathing exercisesResearch has proven that personalised breathing exercises can improve the wellbeing of people with stress, anxiety, panic attacks or sleeping problems. Moonbird asked us to develop a handheld device that will guide the user through their breathing exercises by providing tactile feedback. moonbird.life
Ellio: Next generation speed pedelec that replaces the carWith Ellio, Intu-e-Drive aims to develop a bicycle that could be a full-fledged replacement for a car, a high end speed pedelec that’s safe, reliable and intuitive to ride. This is achieved through a series of innovative features: a 2 wheel drive system, automatic gear changes, autonomous braking, a powerful battery and intelligent control software. This bicycle is an innovative mobility solution that takes away the uncertainties of being on the go. RideEllio.com
VRkeer: Increasing children’s safety in traffic with Virtual RealityMost people think of Virtual Reality (VR) as a tool that is made predominantly for entertainment. In this project, our client wanted to go even further, by using this tool to bring traffic education into Flanders’ classrooms. Aeroplane and Achilles joined forces with “Virtual Learning is Reality” to create VRkeer, a virtual traffic education game in which children encounter a series of traffic scenarios that contain vital safety lessons and directions. The game required a dedicated set of VR hardware that was easy to transport, setup in classrooms, and used by children. VRkeer.app
Hiron: Travel light, drive smoothly and enjoy!In 2020, Fiets! decided on an extension of their product range by introducing their own new bicycle brand. Achilles Design was asked to define the positioning of this new brand. On that basis, we developed a whole brand identity. We created a name, a suitable logo and the graphic interpretation of the new brand, as well as the appearance of the bicycles and guidelines for their assembly. fiets.be
Perfect Moose: hands-free recipe for the perfect microfoamMilkfoaming takes a lot of skill, time, feel and practice. Perfect Moose is the smart, automated foamer which takes over for the busy barista, rescues the untrained and gives your customers a true treat worth coming back for. Using any liquid you like. Perfectmoose.com
Iventri: The intelligent training for your bodyWe all know physical exercise and a healthy diet can help us to loose weight, but unfortunately we can't choose which areas of the body will burn more or less fat. In general, parts of the body with high blood circulation (like face and chest area) are more likely to burn fat than others (like the waist). The iVentri waistband creates an alternating overpressure and under pressure on the skin around the waist, to stimulate the local blood stimulation. By wearing iVentri during a training session, you will much faster get rid of those love handles. iVentri.com
How to read books to better remember them
1 Relevance readingRead what’s relevant to your life at this moment to better remember the content of a book. Want to start building your own campervan? Read a book on vanlife. Your next client will be a fintech scale-up? Read a book on fintech.
2 No notifications, only notesLeave your phone elsewhere. Don’t get distracted and fully focus on what you’re reading. The only thing you should be doing is reading. And taking notes. Scribbling insights while you read helps you to better remember the content because you’re feeding your brain with new cues for recalling information. Pro tip? Write your notes in blue ink. Studies have shown that writing in this color is best for remembering your notes.
3 Linking informationYour notes can make you think of other things you know. Work on connecting what you’ve just learned to what you already knew. Making these new connections between new and old knowledge is key if you want to better remember your new learnings.
4 Recap itFinished your book? Take a moment to recap it by describing the most important insights on just one or two pages. In a few months or years when you look back at that summary, you’ll remember the entire book by just looking at that brief recap.
5 Use itYour recently added knowledge will be better embedded in your long-term memory if you use what you’ve learned. What insights can you directly apply to your life? Apply them. Don’t see any insights that you can directly apply? Make sure to at least share your knowledge with someone who might directly benefit from your knowledge. By explaining, you make sure that you yourself understood the content and that you repeat it once more to deeper embed it in your memory.
1 There should be an emotional connection, a feeling of attraction at first glance.It may sound buzzworthy, but the looks of a desirable bicycle should grab your attention within a timespan of five seconds. Because it takes less than five seconds for emotions to form. These are intangible forces to be aware of. Knowing what does and does not contribute to a strong emotional response requires a keen eye and extensive design experience.
2 The appearance should accurately convey the purpose and performance of the bicycle.The way the bicycle looks, or its aesthetics, will evoke certain expectations about its purpose and performance. Just from looking at the bicycle the cyclist should be able to imagine the role it will play in their life. Imagine the shapes and curves of a time trial bike that express speed. Only after there’s a match between a cyclist’s need and a bicycle’s promise, desirability comes into play.
3 The conveyed purpose and related performance should be inherently there.The cyclist’s expectations need to be met during the first ride experience, otherwise the cyclist will decide against the bike. Consider a sturdy looking integrated rear rack with a load capacity of only 5kg, disappointing and rather useless for carrying groceries. Any initial setback will be very hard if not impossible to revert. A designer needs to be aware of this substantially decisive ‘feel-factor’.
4 Only a positive user experience leads to sustained desirability.Once a cyclist has purchased a certain bicycle, its performance in itself will be the key driving factor of sustained desirability: its ease of cycling, its robustness, its overall handling, comfort, safety, ease of maintenance, etc. all contribute to the joy of cycling, owning, maintaining and holding on to the bicycle for a long time. Any disappointment will be shown by the layer of dust it’s covered under, ageing in the garage.
1 Working with intangible concepts.Empathy is a core characteristic of an industrial designer, to get a good grasp on the needs, desires and expectations of the user. And to capture the right emotions that a client wants to evoke with their brand and product. These are intangible concepts, making them hard to clearly grasp and define, yet they cannot be tossed aside. They’re the vital starting point of every design process. Achilles Design has multiple tools and techniques to capture and work with these intangible concepts.
2 Formulate fitting design drivers.These intangible concepts get translated into design drivers that relate to both the engineering and aesthetic requirements. This process is based on both practice and experience. In essence you’re describing and prioritizing the key properties of your bicycle. These should steer you in a dedicated direction and serve as a guide throughout the development process. All of the design drivers need to be present in the final design. At the end, they will make the difference, they will turn your bicycle into something your target audience truly desires.
What makes a bicycle truly desirable is very dependent on the user expectations and the needs of the targeted cyclist. If a design doesn’t strike the right chord it might be that the designer has missed some of these marks or that the design simply wasn’t intended to speak to you.
3 Find the right balance.Engineering and aesthetics requirements are often contradictory. It’s therefore key to get the priorities straight at the beginning, these will guide you towards the right design decisions throughout the development process. Ideally you want to look for those design solutions where engineering goes hand in hand with aesthetics, but sometimes you’ll need to compromise. This balancing exercise is further complicated by the interconnectedness of things. To illustrate, selecting a more powerful and therefor larger motor will change the proportions in your frame silhouette, forcing you to revisit previous design decisions. In practice the search for the right balance is a highly iterative process.
4 Maintain this balance throughout the development process.The industrial designer is uniquely positioned to both define and safeguard this delicate balance between engineering and aesthetics. Throughout the development process of the bicycle multiple stakeholders come into play: suppliers, manufacturers, distributers, etc. Each one working within their own preferences, restrictions and capabilities. During a development process, unexpected things may pop up that have implications on the design. For example, when a section of tubing needs to be altered because of sourcing issues or when a material finish proves to be too costly, the designer needs to come up with an alternative solution. To many, this iterative process of defining and revisiting may sound exhausting, to us it’s second nature.
A great UX is designed around how people think.
1. Limit the amount of options a user hasWhen you limit people’s freedom, they will react negatively (Zemack-Rugar et al., 2017). So you don’t want to offer too few choices to your user or to force him/her to act a certain way. But you also don’t want to maze users with too many choices either because this increases the time and effort a user needs to make her/his decision (Nikolov, 2017). Booking a hotel on Airbnb could be way more streamlined if Airbnb actually anticipated what you’re looking for. Instead of scrolling through all options, Airbnb could suggest a handful of options by knowing already what you would want to spend per night, by knowing you want a King size bed and a gym nearby, and that you want to live in a young and vibrant area. It is better to already personalize and provide a targeted selection proactively. Key takeaway; Don’t ask the user to make too many selections her/himself. Already anticipate what the user wants and display a selection of all options.
2. Don’t force users to do something, but suggest them insteadLet’s stay with the example of Airbnb here. The platform nailed this technique pretty well. Users are not forced to select any dates or the amount of guests, but they still get to see places to stay. Airbnb just suggests that it is better to select dates and the number of guests to see accurate prices per night. Getting an accurate price is a good reason for the user to enter the dates and the amount of guests, so the user will enter her/his preferences without feeling forced to do so.
3. Users copy the behavior of other users, so use social proof to steer behaviorWhen people don’t really know what to do or choose, they follow the behavior of others (Cialdini, 2006). For this unknowing user it is easy to think that the right thing to do or choose, is to just copy others. The more people have shown a certain behavior before, the more an individual thinks it is right to follow the others.
4. Users value something more if it is scarceScarcity is a trick to boost conversions (Cialdini, 2006) and it is often scarce on purpose, just to increase the perceived value. This technique is often used is a sneaky way to create more revenue. An example of this is an expensive limited edition bag that is as costly to manufacture as the generic edition that is reasonably priced. But scarcity can also be used to stimulate good user behavior by leveraging actual scarcity, instead of faking it. A great example of real scarcity to steer good user behavior is found in the UX of Uber Eats. Here, users can share the delivery costs with others if they order fast. The timing of deliveries really is scarce and this can be used ethically to convince users to order a dish. A user that orders right now, will get it delivered at a lower price because (s)he can share the delivery costs with another user. A win-win for both users, but also for Uber Eats because users are better convinced and deliveries can be more streamlined.
5. Users want to stay consistent with their past behaviorPeople think of new tasks as something negative. To lower that negative feeling and to convince people to perform the action, make sure their initial new task is very small. Once your user has performed that one small task, you can ask your user to do a slightly bigger task that is linked to the smaller one. Your user will want to stay consistent with his/her past behavior and will now be more likely to take the rest of the tasks (Cialdini, 2006).
Did you spot the least ethical UX? It was the one on social proof. This UX steers an uneducated user towards a purchase that might not be best for her/him, while the other examples reduce mental effort for the user in a less intrusive way. These are just a few examples to explain how knowledge of behavioral economics is key to UX design.
A. Designed to improve behavior
This handy gadget and many more like it are designed with more than a passionless function in mind. They are designed around human motivations, adding fun and engagement to the cold functions. Most gamified products have that extra layer to make the functional activity more appealing. In this example, the gamified infuser leads the user of the product to drinking more tea. While drinking more tea has a modest impact on a person’s life -some would argue this-, there are many activities that do have a big impact. That’s why gamification can be a powerful tool when applying it to products that we use to complete important tasks.
Games are fun and engaging because we design them to be. When we talk about gamification, we learn about engagement techniques that make games so much fun. We then apply them to other products like car dashboards, language learning apps and tea infusers.Yu-Kai Chou has studied the engagement techniques used in games to create a framework (Octalysis) that we can use as a starting point to gamify our own products. The framework starts with the 8 Core Drivers that make games engaging. These Core Drivers hook us in different ways. While some drivers engage us through motivation and empowerment, other drivers have an addictive and dirty side to them. Let’s explore all drivers for a moment.
1 MeaningThis is the feeling of being ‘the chosen one’ (special, gifted, lucky) to do something. If a players feels as if (s)he is the one that must perform a task, (s)he will spend more time on e.g. supporting other players, or being active on a forum. The fun tea infuser could use this technique as well. It would e.g. be cool to find a little letter in the infuser when you open it for the first time. The letter could say “Dear tea lover, you made the right choice. You understand the importance of tea moments throughout your days. Help us on our mission to spread tea drinking around the world by inviting others to do the same!”
2 AccomplishmentThe player is challenged and feels satisfied when (s)he has overcome the hurdle. The players is motivated because (s)he feels the progress (s)he’s making is paying off (e.g. scoring high on the leaderboard, earning a badge,..). Remaining with the tea example here, you could congratulate tea drinkers for finishing their can of tea leaves for instance. One idea is to print a refreshing and rewarding message on the bottom of the can. Something like “Dear tea drinker. Great job on finishing this can! This means you have sustained your healthy tea drinking habit! We wish more people were like you.”
3 EmpowermentWhen the player feels engagement because (s)he is able to use his/her creativity to find a solution to a problem or challenge. It is important to not only feel creative, but to get feedback on that creativity. Players want to immediately see the results of their creativity. The tea company could build a community around tea drinking, asking customers to upload their design of a tea mug. All designs get feedback from the company and from the community. The winning designs could get produced as limited edition mugs.
4 OwnershipThe feeling of ownership over something can also be a strong driver of engagement. When you feel ownership, you want to increase or improve what you possess to become more wealthy. So a badge earned becomes a trigger to earn even more. You could tell tea lovers that bought an infuser something like “The infuser you own is called ‘Chillout Charles’. But there’s also ‘Focused Fred’ and ‘Healing Helen’. Why not get Charles some friends so he can have a proper tea(m) meeting?”
5 Social InfluencePeople get engaged by social interactions like friendship, rivalry, and even envy. A friend knows how to play the piano? You’re triggered to acquire that skill now. Someone in your cycling group bought a new, fancier race bike? You’ll feel like buying one too. Social Influence is a driver that also includes engagement based on being drawn to familiar people. That’s why chats in games work well. Players want to feel close to others who share the same interests. Tea lovers could unite on a social channel that’s initiated by the tea company. Tea lovers then use that to post pictures of their tea moment or collection, they can react on each other, like, forward, share,..
6 ScarcityPlaying ‘hard to get’ in dating works because you seem more desirable, engaging potential partners to invest more time and effort in building a relationship with you. The same goes for rewards in games. A game can postpone a reward or make some rewards very exclusive so players want them even more, keeping them hooked. Remember Helen, Fred and Charles? Well, there’s also a very rare 4th. For every 10.000, there’s one ‘Mysterious Maggy’. She’s 100% gold, worth €5.000. Every tea can you buy from us has a code on the inside, giving you a shot at winning a ‘Mysterious Maggy’.
7 UnpredictabilityPlayers don’t know what will happen next and this on itself is enough to boost engagement. That’s why most people like to see a movie they’ve never seen before over a movie they remember well. Not knowing what will happen seems like an innocent driver, but it is the same driver that leads addicted gamblers to waste their money. Tea lovers could sign up for the tea newsletter. Once in a while that newsletter contains a coupon for a free product. But you never know when there will be one of them in the newsletter and what the gift will be. Better keep on reading that weekly newsletter now.
8 AvoidanceThis driver keeps players in because they are afraid of losing something if they stop playing. A gamer might risk to lose his status or miss out on an one-time opportunity (scarcity) that will be shared at some point in the upcoming days (unpredictability). Missing out on that must be avoided at all costs. Our tea company could engage customers with this; “Up for a challenge? Post a picture of your tea moment each day for 30 days and receive a free tea assortment”.
B. Scoring your gamification
The best gamified products will stimulate users to take on their activities (i.e. using the product to reach a goal), and make them feel good about themselves afterwards as well. That can be done with all drivers, but it’s adviced to not use too many negative ones.
Negative motivators don’t give us that same energy. Instead, we keep playing because we obsess over not losing something, because we want something that is hard to get or because we don’t know what happens next. These negative motivators keep us engaged, but we won’t end up feeling good.
It is even better to use this model on a journey model to get a better picture of your pain and opportunity areas. It might be that the biggest room for improvement lies in one or two specific user steps or phases, where the gamification mechanics are too imbalanced.
Now it is up to you!
A. Creativity as a habit
Start smallIf you want to get creative with 3D software, don’t plan your first session to take up your entire weekend. Just start off by reading about what software would work for your goals. Maybe watch 2-3 tutorials and leave it there. Downloading the trial version and going through some of the beginner’s features is for your next session. Keep those sessions short enough so that they don’t take up your energy. Energy-draining sessions are the reason why many habits fail. Once you get familiar with the software, you’ll need to invest less energy and sessions naturally will become longer.
Pick a timeSince sessions don’t take up much of your time, you should easily find a fitting spot in your agenda. But make sure your mental state is all set for the training. Maybe you thrive early in the morning? Then that’s your time to get creative. There’s no universal time to be creative. Just feel at what time of the day you typically are focused and at what time your agenda allows for a creative session. Any time is fine, but make sure you find a fixed moment in your week or day to regularly practice.
Pick a placeCreativity often gets a boost with a change of scenery, but to start your habit it’s helpful to pick a dedicated spot in your home that you’ll only use to practice on your creative work. If you don’t have a separate room to reserve for just one dedicated activity, try to move a chair or get a tiny desk that is only yours, for you to get creative. It should be a comfy spot that has everything you need to instantly start your session.
Mess aroundCreativity happens if you don’t force it too much. Before you start working on your creative project, just play with the features of your 3D software for a bit, without trying to build a specific model. Or write some lines of random stuff before you take up your novel writing or code session. By allowing yourself for some aimless practice, you provide yourself time to get into the creative state needed for your project.
Tell othersTell friends and family about your new habit. Once you’ve told them, you feel a slight social pressure to proceed with your habit. This technique will not work well for everyone, but it might give you that extra push you need to get through the first few weeks of habit building.
B. Let the creative juices flow
1 The relaxed mental libraryFeed your brain with new impressions. Take a walk in a neighborhood you seldom visit, go to a museum, explore new movies,.. A mind that is filled with all sorts of different inputs can take memories on very different topics and link them to form highly creative ideas. So if you want to write a creative script for an action movie, don’t just study action movies. Chat with a watch maker, enjoy a ballet, click a playlist on Spotify you’d never click,.. Adopt this lifestyle and let your mind process all impressions you’re feeding it. To get the creative ideas out, you just need to relax. Maybe for you that means taking a walk (then don’t forget to take your notebook with you) or taking a shower.
2 Ideation boundariesCreativity can come from limiting the area in which you can ideate. If I ask you to design a building, it’s hard to start drawing. If I ask you to design a floor plan for a luxurious restaurant with an open kitchen, you know where to start. If I ask you to design a better bike, it’s hard to start brainstorming. If I ask you to design a better bike for deaf people who want to safely travel in crowded urban areas, you feel it’s easier to come up with ideas.
3 Go wildDare to think of ideas that seem nuts and impossible to implement. Those crazy ideas pull you into a whole new ideation field and make you think of how that impossible idea can be turned into a more realistic one. When ideating new bike designs, you could e.g. ask yourself what a bike would look like if a person could only have one bike in his life. Wondering about such questions can lead to radical bike innovations.
C. Generating many ideas
The 8 idea phases
- Scope: Set limits to the problem area or challenge you want to work on. You cannot generate ideas before you define your scope.
- Research. Get to know your problem or challenge by looking up relevant content.
- Ideate. Use ‘the relaxed mind’, ‘ideation boundaries’, ‘go wild’ or a combination of these methods to generate many ideas. Many ideas, because that’s the road to better ideas. With each new idea, you can polish and combine previous ideas to get better ones.
- Select and create concepts. Out of the large idea pool, select a handful of ideas that you feel are valuable and turn them into a concept. This can be a fake door landing page for a new service you wish to launch, or a sketch of a new bike you want to design.
- Get feedback. Show or explain your selected concepts to others. Ask them for feedback and if possible, also look at facial expressions and body language when they provide you with their feedback.
- Polish. That feedback from step 5 is most important. Use it to refine your concepts or to select other ideas (step 4) that may hold more value.
- Repeat step 5 and 6. Do it several times, until you feel certain about the value of your concept. If no one gets excited about any of your concepts, return to step 1.
- Launch it. Your concepts have no value if you don’t turn them into launched products or services. Go on, add value to the world and make people smile.
Areas of expertise
The first thing you need is a multidisciplinary team that covers all the different areas of expertise. For startups, this is often impossible, and they need to look for external services to complement their skills. If you take this external route, look for teams that are flexible and can work well together with your team. Look for a team that has an extensive history in medical products and other fields. They can provide a wealth of expertise and experience in various areas that even some medical device manufacturers may lack internally. This will ensure you look at your project from different angles and transfer solutions from other fields.
Experienced design firms have tried and tested development methodologies that will guide you through the whole process. They know where the pitfalls are, and can work according to the required ISO standards.
Start from the userEstablished healthcare companies have the necessary expertise to market their products in-house. For startups this can be a challenge. Even the best designed product can fail if it is not brought to market the right way. At the start of the development, product marketing and branding must already be part of the thinking process. This is the only way to make sure they will reinforce each other and avoid unpleasant surprises at launch.
Medical products are not stand alone anymore. Many products are connected to platforms and exchange data with patients, doctors, and caregivers. This requires new insights and disciplines to design frustration-free user interfaces, secure data protection, and interconnected products.
Additionally, some healthcare is shifting away from hospitals and other medical environments to patients’ homes. Connected smart products collect medical data and make it available for patients, and doctors, in real time, to make the right decisions. This not only makes the development of products more complex, with smart censors and high connectivity, but also demands a complete rethinking of how healthcare services are delivered. These products become product-service systems that require a service design expertise to make them successful on the market.
Finally, when you have your minimal viable product, proof of concept, and final prototype, you must be able to produce it in a consistent error-free way. Thinking about this is not something you start with after the design is finished. Design for manufacturing should already be part of the design process from the very beginning. Production and product cost need to be taken into account at the very start of development.
Finding the right partner to produce your product is also essential, and if you start early enough, a good partner will help you in the last stage to go to production.
Go to marketEstablished healthcare companies have the necessary expertise to market their products in-house. For startups this can be a challenge. Even the best designed product can fail if it is not brought to market the right way. At the start of the development, product marketing and branding must already be part of the thinking process. This is the only way to make sure they will reinforce each other and avoid unpleasant surprises at launch.
How does Achilles face medical design?
At Achilles, we advance healthcare through people-centered design. We prototype early and often, to ensure we keep the people we design for at the heart of the process. By putting ideas in the hands of users from low-fidelity paper interfaces to 3D-printed prototypes and high-level immersion VR, we systematically identify improvements and preventively exclude risks without compromising our intuition.
We believe better health is achieved by engaging people at every stage of their health journey. Our cross functional team — consisting of biomedical engineers, designers, usability experts, and a doctor — work across disciplines to integrate people’s needs with responsible technology and sustainable business models. We strive to establish innovative healthcare service solutions that drive business value by advancing the standard of healthcare.