We all have seen beautiful designs on paper and have been wowed. Maybe the design caught your fancy, and you feel you want to have the design developed for you in reality. Well, I want you to know something — what you saw in the design that fuels your expectations will be different from the real product when development is finished. Yes, just in case you never know, expectations brought about by beautiful designs or imaginations end up being different from reality, and I tell you what; it happens in all fields. As a product designer, we at Plant, wants you to have this at the back of your mind.
What does the above mean? Your idea about a product before development ends up being different from the end product. And this includes not just about the physical design of a product but people’s perception of the product and how they use it. This then means that you have to be fluid and flexible. You have to be ready to make changes even before the need arises because changes will definitely come along the way. But what really leads to changes between expectations and reality? These will be discussed below.
We are Not Logical Creatures
Let me say it again, humans are not logical — and we have to accept it. At the time of planning on the design and development of a product, we usually have an idea of an ideal client who will use the product and how he will go about it and for what. As a product designer, while you are always asked to have something like a user persona of products you design, you have to know that much of the difference between expectations and reality steps from basing your decisions on your ideal users.
The product will end up being used by a lot of users outside the range of what you term ideal users. And when they use it, they will use it in a way you have never thought of. What would be the reaction? Would they kill your products with bad reviews or praise them. And believe me you; their perception about your product matters — because they have turned themselves into users. Avoid thinking about humans being logical and get things to work even in the weirdest situation.
Overhyping Your Product
Unless you are the next Elon Musk, you have to understand that hyping your product too much can create unnecessary expectations you cannot meet. We have seen movie adverts being hyped, people set out for the premiere, only to come back home with bad energy. Your marketing team can cause you a problem. Make no mistake about it; no one is telling you not to hype your product before it is finished. Most products live on hype. The problem with hype is that if reality does not meet up with expectations, you are bound to get a revolt.
To me, I feel it is better you over-deliver and beat expectations than to deliver below expectations. Hype a little, develop your product and get it to an “awwwn” level. Your product will make a lot of noise than what hypes will, and that’s all that matters.
Asking Users What They Want
This point stems from the one above. What better way can you meet one’s expectation than actually asking what those expectations are like? It might interest you to know that most people do not know what they want — until they have a product at hand. Let me give you an example. I ones did a web design work for a client who only showed me the sample of a competitor’s site as what he wants and his expectations. Well, it turned out that that was not what he wanted. He actually wants something better but didn’t know until I finished the design. Long story short, I ended up starting from scratch — and was paid double.
Instead of asking direct questions, try and understand what the person actually needs. Ask indirect questions, have a chat with your intended users, ask for alternatives, and make inferences from all of the information you gather. Even after doing all of this, differences can come up — courtesy of the fact that humans aren’t logical, and they actually do not know what they want.
Making Product with Unnecessary Features
People love simple and easy to use products. While someone will tell you he or she would love a feature added to a product, you will be surprised that such a person will end up using the feature just for a while, and the status quo will be maintained. Needless to say, the feature has been added, and expectations of users have been changed. This brings about changes in products. This is not a bad thing, though. If you are able to surpass one’s expectation, I think that’s an added advantage.
Some times, we create design products that are simple and easy to use. They meet expectations — we are happy, users of the products are happy. Then boom, you become bored and start adding unnecessary features until your product becomes a completely new product because of the unnecessary additions.
As humans, we see things directly, depending on our religious, political, tribal, educational, or even geographical inclinations. Experience also matters to a great deal. This means that who you are designing for should be considered else, your product might become that beautiful piece of art nobody wants to have around — yet it is beautiful. At first, this might not make sense to you, but what you spend a year designing might be a piece of a joke to someone in it entirety simply because he perceives things differently, and as such, his own reality does not conform with your own expectations.
As a product designer, you need to learn how to make sure you minimize the difference between expectations and reality because it could make or mar your product. While it is difficult to match the two, it is actually easy to exceed expectations in a positive way, and that should be the ultimate goal of product designers. At Plant, we encourage our designers to exceed expectations and create masterpieces that our users love.