If you treat your users extremely well, then you're already on your way to practicing good design, according to one expert's definition of the concept.
"Essentially it's how you treat your customers," Yves Béhar, founder of San Francisco-based design agency fuseproject, said. Béhar spoke in San Francisco today at the Launch Festival, an annual event that hosts about 9,000 people. Béhar is also well known for his role as chief creative officer at Jawbone where he designed the Jawbone Jambox and the Up activity tracker.
"If you treat your customers from an ergonomics standpoint, from a user standpoint, from an emotional standpoint -- if you treat them well throughout the different experiences they have with your company, you're probably practicing good design," Béhar said.
But don't be fooled. It's simpler in concept than in practice. Good design means that the customer has been at the center of your thought process since the beginning. "It's part of choosing what features go into a product, where it's going to live on the body," Béhar said. "It's part of what you're going to say about your brand."
That idea is a far cry from the way Silicon Valley used to think about design. When Béhar came to California in the 90s, he said companies brought him in at the end product development to attempt to beautify what they had created. "It was just pretty much like being a decorator," he said.
Today design -- along with functionality -- is at the center of almost every successful startup's conversations. However, incorporating it into a new business certainly doesn't come naturally. During his talk, Béhar touched on three useful reminders, which can help you weave good design into your company.
Good design enhances natural human interactions.
Béhar explained why he thinks Google Glass' current design isn't necessarily natural. He used a metaphor to describe the way it alienates nonusers. "I think it's problematic just like, for example, the way the Segway is problematic," Béhar. "When you ride a Segway around, you're about a foot taller than everyone else. That's not a natural interaction."
When it comes to design simplicity, set the bar extremely high.
Béhar's own high bar is trying to match the functionality and simplicity of the light switch.
"I do believe, especially in our home environments, we don't need more disruption. We don't need more screens. What we want to do, what we're competing with, is the light switch," Béhar said. "And if it's any more complex than that, if it requires any more thinking, it's probably not going to get wide adoption."
The best designers are the ones that want to be "lifers" at your company.
Béhar doesn't stop thinking about the various companies he works with. "I'm perpetually thinking about the company or the opportunities that exist." Both those companies and Béhar want to keep working together -- virtually until Béhar is done working for good.
"This long-term engagement," Béhar said. "That's really what creates groundbreaking, history making companies."