September 25th, 2008
Interaction design is hard enough to do when the business model is clear. When the designer knows exactly how making a better design will increase the value of the company, (thereby increasing the chances they’ll get a raise if they do a good job,) it’s still hard to know what to do.
All one has to do is look to Apple to see how this works. When iTunes 6.0 came out in January of 2006, they introduced a feature called the mini-store, which, for all practical purposes, bombed.
This past month, in iTunes 8, they reintroduced the same business model, this time with a different interaction design called the Genius. It looks like this new design of the old mini-store is going to be a big contributor to Apple’s next year of revenues. (How much? Well, they are now selling more than 1 billion songs each year. The Genius functionality could easily add another 20%-30% on top of that.)
Some model, different design, huge increase in revenues.
When the business model doesn’t match the user experience or (as was “discussed” in the IxDA.org insane-people’s-death-match thread) when nobody seems to understand what the business model is, the designer can’t know if they are helping or hurting the company by creating a better experience for the user.
Creating a great experience can be an expensive investment. Unless the designer can clearly show the value of that investment, they’ll be constantly fighting the forces of reducing costs to increase profitability. It’s always cheaper to produce crap, so if you don’t understand how quality factors into long term profitability, crap is what will win.
Designers that can’t talk to value in the business model also can’t explain why they themselves should be on the payroll.
This is why understanding the business model is essential to good interaction design.
[Thanks to Robert Hoekman for encouraging me to make this into a blog post.]Tweet