Give them cake - and a great user experience

My favorite marketing story from a class in college was about cake mixes. It always stuck with me because of the way consumers drove the development of the product. For a product that is so prevalent these days, I was amazed to hear that when it first came out, it was kind of a flop. Why? The end user.

When first created, cake mixes were made for convenience - making it easy to have a cake at home. In trying to make it as painless as possible, cake mixes initially touted that you only had to add water. That’s it! Could it be any more convenient? And yet, sales didn’t take off like expected. 

It was only when market research was done that they discovered that there was a psychological element to cake mixes that had been overlooked. Women wanted to feel more a part of the cake-making process. As a result, they changed box mixes to add water and eggs. Sales went up and now cake mixes are widely used and loved by all.

Of course, I’m simplifying the story a bit, but the point is this - the end user. The consumer. You have to know who they are and what they want in order to meet that need and for your product to be successful. Whether it be a cake mix for consumption of cake, or a data product for consumption of information. If it doesn’t meet their need, it won’t be used. 

One of the most important things we can do when designing is to consider the end user. It’s all about them. Even in this era of Big Data, the data is just the beginning. The ultimate goal is to be able to do something with that data, likely using some kind of data application. The person using that data to make decisions, take action and be productive needs to be able to glean valuable insight from it. If it doesn’t enable them to do that, they won’t use it and the benefit of all that data will be lost.

When using our product, Juicebox, to build data applications, we always start a design by talking about the end user and what their goal is. Then we work backwards to figure out how to create a design that helps them achieve that.

Here are some things to keep in mind about the end user when working through your own design:

1. Reduce new features and improve current ones to improve experience.

"You have to deeply understand the essence of a product in order to be able to get rid of the parts that are not essential." - Jonathan Ive, Senior Vice President of Design at Apple Inc.

2. It’s not about you. Consider your user’s needs. How can you help them complete tasks in the most intuitive way?

3. Workflow integration. How can your design fit into it?

4. Offer guidance and instruction for your users where needed. 

5. Consider a user’s comfort level with data and visuals and design something appropriate. 

6. Make it conversational

7. Keep it simple.

8. There’s a difference between interesting and useful. Lead the user to take action.

In addition to those things, have conversations with clients and figure out what they actually need to accomplish. You know the saying, "If you build it, they will come"? Well, they lied. If you build it with the ability to help them solve a problem, they will come.