Who could’ve guessed when we were planning our blog content for 2020 how 2020 would unfold?
The year was about adaptation, pivots, and coming together … while apart. Looking at this list of top ten posts, which builds from least to most popular (number one), it’s interesting to see that the top five posts include two on how we handled the pivot from in-person to remote, and two on design strategy methods for making sense of the future. These topics clearly appealed to readers during a tumultuous and unprecedented year.
Without further ado, here’s the list:
Our CES reports are always popular and this year’s was no exception. Rob Martin came back from Vegas with lots to share. He noted that the product and tech trends seen at CES in January seemed to be defined by a burst of innovation that came from the interplay of autonomous vehicles, new sensor technologies, and the Internet of Things (IoT) reaching peak cross-pollination. Products no longer fit neatly into categories.
In some cases — and with the exception of medical wearables — the tech seemed to be getting ahead of itself. These good ideas were in need a designer’s help. Rob also noted some small, growing sectors, like self-powered devices.
Read the post: CES 2020 Product and Tech Trends: It’s All Coming Together by Rob Martin
In this post that builds on Chris’s Design Defined video on the same topic, he breaks down the goals of moderating user research and what’s involved in achieving those goals. Ultimately a moderator wants to acquire as much knowledge as possible from potential users of a product based on their experience (or even a lack of experience), in order to inform the design of the product.
While each stage or type of research (generative research, evaluative research, medical research) requires different things from the moderator, in all they must be flexible, skilled, and prepared.
Read the post: Design Defined: The Art of Moderating User Research by Christopher Kim, MD
Design for Misuse is a principle that’s universal and not as well-known. It raises the importance of designing products to anticipate scenarios when users aren’t at their best, something everyone can relate to — especially in 2020.
Take a sleep-deprived doctor or a texting driver. What errors are they likely to make, and how can designers and engineers make products that take this into account and enable users to accomplish the necessary tasks? Read Leroy Sibanda’s post to learn four ways to design for misuse, and to learn about the related “Swiss Cheese Model.”
Read the post: Design Defined: How Design for Misuse Creates Safer Products by Leroy Sibanda
Some of our top posts grow out of the questions or challenges that arise most frequently for our clients, A frequent question we get is, What kind of touchscreen display is best for our product?
Kevin and Matt’s informative post explains that the appropriate choice varies by application and context of use. The authors address the most important factors to consider — product risk, development budget and timeline, user experience, lifecycle management, and cost of goods sold — and the questions to ask that will help guide you to the right decision.
Read the post: Off the Shelf or Custom Embedded Display for Your Digital-Physical Product? by Kevin Murphy and Matt Ambler
Despite the prevalence of digital-physical products (also known as integrated products, connected devices, or IoT), digital-physical design is not easy. At Bresslergroup, we realized that we needed a way to get researchers, engineers, and designers to speak the same language in order to help us create these complex products. So we created a new tool.
As Matt and Jes write, “Digital-physical workflows (or digi-physi maps as we call them in-house) are one of our most effective tools for creating integrated and connected products.
They help us envision what needs to happen in the digital world and the physical world, as well as where the two need to work together. They break down language barriers within industrial and interaction design disciplines and help us quickly communicate design intentions with engineering.” Read their post to learn more about the tool and how it facilitates cross-discipline collaboration.
Read the post: Using Digital-Physical Workflows To Master Integrated Design by Matt Ambler and Jes Koepfler, PhD
Matt Ambler tackles a relevant and important principle in this written adaptation of his Design Defined video about Hick’s Law. We can all relate to the problem of the TV remote with too many buttons. If the designers of that remote, or of your [insert any too-complicated tech product or home appliance here] had used Hick’s Law, they might have realized that too many options negatively impacts a user’s experience and makes it harder to complete a task.
Matt explains how designers can use Hick’s Law to help simplify the decision-making process for users. No matter what you’re designing, the user should perceive the options to be simple and straightforward.
Read the post: Design Defined: How Does Hick’s Law Apply To Product Design? By Matt Ambler
Two posts in our top five explore how we adapted our day-to-day work to 2020’s new normal. Like everyone, we all had to figure out how to pivot and adapt quickly. In this post our User Research team shares how they continued to continue to deliver user insights to propel innovation, even with the new constraints imposed by COVID-19.
This post was adapted from a webinar: Doing Great Research During COVID.
Read the post: User Research During COVID: Expanding Your Playbook for the New Normal by Conall Dempsey, Sarah Fairchild, PhD, Jemma Frost, and Jes Koepfler, PhD
Another commonality in our top five posts is design strategy to inform decisions about future innovation. What does the future look like? Design strategists are often asked by clients to help analyze the market in order to answer this question. And it’s no wonder there was interest in understanding how to make sense of the future in a year that turned out to be so unpredictable.
In this blog post adapted from her Design Defined video, Anat writes about STEEPLE, a framework for identifying external drivers of change so design strategists can understand what’s influencing consumers and what their behavior will look like in the future.
STEEPLE stands for social, technological, economic, environmental, political, legal, and ethical. STEEPLE Analysis is a tool for scanning your external environment. It helps teams understand phenomena and imagine new opportunities. “Without such a tool,” writes Anat, “you tend to think the future will be much like the present.” Using an analysis technique like STEEPLE protects you from being blindsided.
Read the post: Design Defined: How STEEPLE Analysis Informs Design Strategy by Anat Mooreville, PhD
What’s the difference between incremental and disruptive innovation? One is improving products step by step and the other happens in leaps and bounds. In this post, Ryan explains the basics of Forecasting and Backcasting, a design strategy technique that aids disruptive innovation.
While it’s not easy to see one or two steps ahead, it’s even harder to envision what lies ten or twenty steps down the road. Jumps and leaps require visionary direction: creating a vision for the future, and then creating a roadmap toward that imagined future with actionable steps and a path forward.
Read the post: Design Defined: How ‘Forecasting and Backcasting’ Enable Disruptive Innovation by Ryan Chen
Finally, coming in at number one — our User Research team strikes again! This post, on how they pivoted from in-person research to remote research, came just a few weeks into the pandemic. Typical of our team, they framed the pivot as an opportunity rather than a drawback, stating that they were excited to explore the strengths of remote research while expanding their practice of it.
This post gives real-life examples of how the multiple authors were using remote research methods for projects that were in progress as the world went into quarantine.
Read the post: Our Favorite Remote Research Methods for Product Design by Alex Visconti, Sarah Fairchild, PhD, Jemma Frost, Jes Koepfler, PhD, and Conall Dempsey
Thank you for reading! See you next year, when we’ll continue to explore these and more themes — sign up for one of our newsletters for monthly dispatches!
And check out all of our Most Popular Posts from 2013-2019.