May 30, 2016

Design is a journey of discovery

Fanny Vakkila

Business Consultant, Tieto

Design is an exciting journey where you cannot know the end result from the start. In the beginning you may have a direction, but often this will change based on the findings as you go along. It requires patience, adaptability, empathy towards the user and an open mind. At its best, it brings insights for innovation.

At the start of this year, we started the Tieto Experience Hub design journey with Elo Mutual Pension Insurance Company to help develop new digital services to support the wellbeing of entrepreneurs. This journey included a lot of new concept ideas and new ways of working, but the most valuable insights relate to discovering genuine user needs. Here are some of our key findings. 

Discovering real user needs 

In order to design great products and services it´s crucial to understand who you are designing for; who is the customer and who is the user. Users are always the best source of information and guide towards solving the right problems, which is why user testing should be done early and often.

During our Elo design project, we made several user validations with different kinds of prototypes, from simple paper models to more advanced and detailed html designs. In order to gain a rich understanding of the target entrepreneur group we talked to brick-and-mortar business owners, tech startups, franchisees and many more.

One might think that these test users had very different interests, but actually we found that the general pain points and aspirations were very much the same. All the identified needs were very down to earth. Thus, the service had to provide concrete benefits for the user and solve their everyday challenges.

User needs that repeatedly came up related to networking, peer-to- peer support, time management and gaining knowledge and capability to use digital tools. Busy entrepreneurs also appreciated efficient use of the application. Getting feedback from the real users is always an eye-opening experience, as it allows us to validate the correct approach and guide the design process in the right direction. It also requires the ability to question the designers own beliefs.

It´s not the product or service, it´s the value it creates

During our design journey we discovered that wellbeing meant different things to the users than we initially expected. In fact, wellbeing for entrepreneurs was very closely correlated with a healthy business.

This is why we started designing a digital service to support their daily business activities. This meant we could indirectly support the user’s personal wellbeing and reduce stress. At its best, great design brings value for end-users, customers and the business.

As Peter Drucker has stated: “What the customer buys and considers value is never a product. It is always utility, that is, what a product or a service does for the customer.”

Good design makes the life of the user better. A positive user experience has the potential to expand to the general impression that everything related to the product or service is good. In order to design superior products and services, we need to understand the businesses we work for and what they need in order to grow.

New business opportunities increasingly exist outside traditional industry boundaries. User-centered design methods enable us to discover these opportunities and create more impactful products and services - for both our business and the people who use them.

You can read more about 'Elo develops – Elo kehittää' innovation program and follow its activites here: www.elo.fi/elokehittaa (in Finnish).

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