For a long time, this was the reason I used to give people when I would explain why I bought Apple products, which inevitably were more expensive than a similar product offered by a competitor.

However, of late, it seems Apple is straying from this ethos – and it made me think of why this is happening and what I could learn from it and apply to my own work and thinking.

As a company gets bigger and bigger, and more successful, they inevitable start to make questionable product decisions in favour of maximising revenue as their driver behind new products and new features – and to me, in this, lies the opportunity for any company that is facing a David and Goliath situation. I remembered a quote from a book I read a while back (Do you matter? by Robert Brunner and Stewart Emery):

You don’t sacrifice the experience for growth, you drive growth from the quality of the experience.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying Apple is not growing anymore and I am not trying to be one of those people that say Apple is going to fail as a company – but in achieving their growth they have perhaps started to make user experience sacrifices in favour of growth/revenue only decisions and in so doing have opened the door for their competitors in a way that they have never done in the past. The sad fact is that they seem to have sacrificied what was once their main USP.

At times, I have found myself making growth first decisions, like how can we make more money right now, what can we ship this month that will drive revenue etc. But these ideas tend to be one-off ideas that drive a small increase and then flatline – real revenue growth comes (in my opinion) from providing an experience that a customer wants to use, and will enjoy coming back to.

I read a recent article: Google is really good at design – and it is amazing how as a previously engineering focussed company they have made a conscious decision to move towards providing products that are about the experience first – and how they have done this through emphasising the role of design within the company – there is a quote in the article which is also worth sharing from Douglas Bowman who was a visual lead at Google:

Without a person at (or near) the helm who thoroughly understands the principles and elements of Design, a company eventually runs out of reasons for design decisions. With every new design decision, critics cry foul. Without conviction, doubt creeps in. Instincts fail. “Is this the right move?” When a company is filled with engineers, it turns to engineering to solve problems. Reduce each decision to a simple logic problem. Remove all subjectivity and just look at the data. Data in your favor? Ok, launch it. Data shows negative effects? Back to the drawing board. And that data eventually becomes a crutch for every decision, paralyzing the company and preventing it from making any daring design decisions.

And yes, I am sure I am preaching to the choir here as they say – but this article and the subsequent one on Apple was a timely reminder on making sure that as designers we maintain our focus on driving growth through the users experience.

Posted by Gary Murray