Mobile Insight

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Design With Your Gut or Data?

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John Lilly recently wrote a great post about something that’s been hotly debated in the design and tech product development community in general: should designers rely on their artistic intuition or should they defer to the dictates of data. There was a popular post that made the rounds a couple of years ago, penned by a designer who quit Google citing (according to him) Google’s propensity to veer towards data-driven design as one of the reasons that he couldn’t operate effectively at Google. John offers some great advise on how one can attempt to resolve the tension between intuition-driven design and data-driven design. He says

In other words, you should always design the product you think/believe/know is what people want — there’s a genius in that activity that no instrumentation, no data report, no analysis will ever replace.  But at the same time you should be relentless in looking at the data on how people actually use what you’ve built, and you should be looking for things that show which assumptions you’ve made are wrong, because those are the clues to what can be made better. We all like to see all the up-and-to-the-right happy MBA charts, and those are important. But they don’t help you get any better than you already are.

Please read the whole post, it references a couple of quotes from Bob Sutton and Guy Kawasaki that I really like. John’s advise is relevant to product innovation in general, high-tech or not. Relying on data derived from usage of existing products and experiences of existing customers is important and can help with incremental innovation. However it is not of much use when the goal is to come up with something that is truly disruptive. Companies should absolutely make use of the state-of-the-art analytics and business intelligence tools that are available today. However they also need to understand the limitations of that approach and learn how to balance that with right-brain thinking and the ability to empathize with prospective users. One needs to go beyond data-mining to create products that are capable of attracting non-consumers.


Written by Varma Chanderraju

August 23, 2011 at 10:12 am

Posted in Design, Innovation

Tagged with , ,

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