Deconstructing The Watch: You Don’t Know What You Need

by Randy Murray on October 8, 2014

What is the worst possible way to design something? In my experience it’s to get a lot of people together who really don’t know much about a subject together in a group and let them throw all of their ideas up on a board.

Want to make it worse still? Let’s let the internet do it.

Some things groups are brilliant at. Product design, logo design, and software, are all horrible, horrible things to have designed by committee. And yes, I know about open source software. For the most part it’s a poor way do design software that non-technical people might actually use.

That’s why I’m pretty sure that Apple didn’t ask for your opinion on how to design their new watch.

In retrospect most Apple products are, for the most part, exactly what you wanted, even though you never knew it. You want more things now from your magical devices, things that Apple should have, according to you, put into those much-desired things. It may frustrate you that they don’t listen to you or the others demanding specific features. I certainly have my own lists of wants.

Others may churn out product after product, chasing after a market by throwing in new features and options. Apple doesn’t seem to care. In fact, they are intentionally ignoring YOU.

And that’s a brilliant business decision.

Why is that? It’s because you don’t really know what you want or need. Not you specifically, but the big, broader collection of YOUs out there. I’ve worked inside product development for years and I’ve seen it done both ways. What becomes quite clear is the fact that most people who use products have not thought deeply about what they want and need.

And thinking deeply about what a product can be, what needs can be met, and how things function are exactly what great product designers and developers do.

It’s not about being first to market. It’s not about having the most features. It’s being able to connect as closely and as deeply with what people really need before it reaches the conscious level of want.

When we look at the forthcoming Apple Watch we can argue about what we want and need. It might not be what you, individually, want. But I’m betting that a number of people at Apple have though long and deeply about what this product might do. They have a vision that is not completely revealed to us. They are building that device, not necessarily your lightly dreamed of device.

And someday, maybe not too long from now, you might be wearing one and never give a thought to all of this hullabaloo that happened before the Apple Watch was even for sale. That’s how great product design works.

Deconstructing The Watch: You Don’t Know What You Need by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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