To the general public, product development may seem easy. After all, it’s just coming up with ideas and drawing some sketches, right? Well, it’s a lot more complicated than that, and it’s important to understand the facts about the product design business, so that you can make an informed decision about the best approach to take in the development of your new product idea.
Fact 1: It’s more than just appearances – Product design is about more than just making the product look cool. It has to take into account the functionality, safety, and legality of the design as well. No matter how interesting a design is, if it doesn’t work, it’s useless. Nowadays, the User Experience of the device is just as, if not more important than the product just looking nice. By solving the painpoints of your users, you can make a product “sticky” and people will want to continue using YOUR device over the competitors, even if your competition has a nicer design.
Fact 2: There’s a lot of trial and error – You might be surprised to learn that screwing up is actually part of the process. In describing his own development process, Thomas Edison said, “I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” In many instances, prototypes that fail are often incredibly instructive in designing a final product. Trial and error is an integral part of the process and takes time and effort to do so. This is one of the main reasons for prototyping the devices. You’d rather make one mistake and learn from it, than start making thousands of parts that you have to fix later on.
Fact 3: Customer testing is absolutely crucial – Because companies and designers can become very engrossed in the chosen product, they often can’t see how the consumer is going to react to it. This is why product testing is so crucial. It’s important to know what real customers think and how they react to a new design. As a design firm, we go into user testing expecting one thing, but nearly every time, the users find ways to use our products that we were not planning for. Even after almost 40 years, we still cannot shortcut this step.
Example: Going Solar with Solar Magic
Solar energy has become a topic of great concern to environmentalists, engineers, and politicians alike. As renewable energy continues to grow as a desirable market, there’s a continued market for products that will make solar energy more affordable, more efficient, and easier to manage. In 2008, National Semiconductor entered the market with the SolarMagic DC-boost Power Optimizer, and StudioRed was critical to the development of this product.
The Research Process
In order to obtain accurate and useful data, StudioRed conducted significant research into how solar panels were being installed, accessed, and created. Using interviews and questionnaires as well as mapping of the actual solar panels, our design teams were able to create an accurate representation of how solar panels were mounted, where they were placed, how they were accessed, and the methods of installation.
Designing and Engineering
Based on the technical specifications of the solar panels, engineers could determine which materials would best stand up to the given environments and still meet the design specifications of markets around the world. Furthermore, there were concerns about wear and tear given the extreme conditions that these devices may have to operate in. Using aluminum housing allowed the product to meet thermal requirements and stay within the weight restrictions.
Utilizing CNC machining centers and short builds, StudioRed was able to manufacture a prototype 3D model that could reflect the actual stresses expected in the final product ensuring that warranty specifications could be met or even exceeded.
By maintaining high standards and utilizing research and prototyping methods, StudioRed was able to craft a product that is able to meet unique environmental needs while still being durable and reliable enough to ensure that it will function within its expected parameters.