UX Reflection: Product Design

What makes a product good vs. great? The perfect cup of coffee.

What’s good?

Let’s start with what we know. A product that exists, where we know exactly what it does, and how to get it to do …that thing that it does.

It may seem very low-fi to talk about a coffee maker in the middle of a UX Reflection but bear with me. I’m not talking about any of these new-fangled devices that require special ingredients or contribute to the toxic plastic problems we’re facing. I’m talking about the coffee maker you can operate before you’ve had your coffee. No judgment here, just making sure we’re on the same shopping aisle.

Pull out a filter, add 10 cups of water, measure the grounds, place your coffee catching receptacle, and push the button. Yes, friends, there is only one button!

In moments you have exactly what you came for. Magical, life-giving, perked-you-up-at-the-first-smell, will-carry-you-through-anything-you-have-to-do-today… coffee.

While very lovingly described you may be surprised to know that I consider this “good” design.

Imagine your grandfather here. If it’s something he would say is “the way things should be”, it’s probably good. Something from a time when we kept things forever because nothing broke. When everyone thought that one thing was their favorite thing when actually it was the only thing. Those are good things. They do their job and they’re reliable.

So what’s great?

Here’s where a designer sits down with their coffee, scratches their head, and says, “but what if…”

“Great” starts at that moment. What if I didn’t have to push the button while I’m half asleep? What if I did all those things yesterday, and today when I wake up, I just pour the coffee, because it started brewing while I hit the snooze and when I walk out it’s already made. Genius.

There are countless ways to get to great. But what’s important is that you introduce the human element into the design.

Maybe Sally likes it’s simple. She likes coffee, but she doesn’t like measuring. She’s okay with pouring. Once a week, fill the water until full. Insert the pre-measured coffee grounds. Push a button. She likes what’s easy, and that’s okay.

Now Todd isn’t like Sally. He wants to personally decide exact measurements. He wants to pick how much fat is in his milk and at what temperature it is when it’s added to his organic, ethically sourced, free-range, contactless… (you get the point) coffee. He likes what’s trendy, and that’s okay too.

So that’s it. You take something good, and even if it’s not broken, you make it an experience that’s perfectly matched to some Sally or Todd out there, and you’re approaching great.

We can’t define it as one extreme or another. It can’t be “keep it simple” or “make it customizable”. It just needs to be what someone really wants in their life to make it better, more enjoyable, more them.

So then, what makes a product good vs. great? YOU tell me.