Mobile apps, embedded touchscreens, and software make a simple, physical product more powerful, but they also add complexity to the product development process.
As the line between digital and physical continues to blur, increasingly complex product experiences call for integrated processes.
At Bresslergroup, multiple disciplines – including user research, industrial design, interaction design, electrical engineering, and software engineering – work closely together during development to produce merged deliverables for frequent customer validation. Constant collaboration and testing lead to richer, deeper customer engagement, and to more successful products.
Our integrated process is partly a product of noticing where our designers were coming together during product development, and it’s partly borrowed from the agile software development world. It’s now a repeatable, proven method, and we write and present frequently about its features and benefits:
Shared Understanding. Design Research helps us understand users’ physical and cognitive tolerances as well as the contexts and environments in which they’re performing various tasks. These findings illuminate opportunities to streamline product experiences and to reinforce positive emotional connections. Sharing this intelligence across disciplines elevates the entire team and, when combined with shared goals, elevates the solution and product experience.
Integrated Visual and Form Development: Style boards created for digital and physical design inspiration grow out of competitive benchmarking, and research into current and emerging trends in form, colors, materials, finishes, graphical screen design, aesthetics. Working in parallel, industrial and interaction design develop innovative ideas for a visual brand language and for a look and feel that is unified across all modes. (Read more about Product Brand Language.)
Rapid Iteration for Rapid Insight Testing. The ability to quickly gather user feedback is crucial throughout the development process. Ethnographic research informs our early ideation, at which point low-fidelity interactive and form prototypes are built and tested with users for broad feedback. Based on that feedback, we refine our designs and build a more realistic prototype, which more closely simulates interacting with a real product. Then we build and test again. Depending on the level of complexity, we cycle through the building and testing of several rounds of prototypes.
Having researchers, industrial designers, interaction designers, and mechanical and electrical engineers working together under one roof keeps this process light and nimble, and lets us pivot quickly. In the end our shared process results in a product that engenders brand love and loyalty.
To deliver the product experience consumers expect, it’s critical to consider digital and physical interactions together. A holistic product experience creates an emotional connection out of the box, supports it through first use, and never stops delivering on its promise. It has many benefits:
User experience in the real world. Clunky user experiences bounce users. A well-designed physical product and a beautiful, usable digital interface can quickly fail people when either the physical or digital aspects have been developed without considering the other. When interaction and industrial design work together, the result is a simpler, more intuitive user experience.
Cohesive brand experience. Product experiences are clear brand expressions, and there can be a lot more to them than visual design. Colors, finishes, and materials work together with interactions and user interface design to create a unique experience that speaks to a brand. A unified digital-physical brand experience that acts across all interfaces is most impactful and memorable.
Life after launch. Historically, no further improvements can be made without significant retooling to a physical product after it’s released, but incorporating digital elements and the ability to update firmware allows for post-launch updates to be pushed out to customers. Interactive onboarding, introducing new features, and responding to customer feedback lead to increased customer engagement and brand advocacy.