Nokia Needs More Design, Less Engineering

I was just reading a recent New York Times article, The Engineer-Driven Culture of Nokia, about how Nokia is dropping its cell phone operating system in favor of Microsoft’s. That amounts to a failure of Nokia to keep up with the new wave of smartphones.

Why did Nokia lose its dominant position in cell phones? Engineering won over design.

The article quotes Adam Greenfield, a former head of design direction at Nokia:

The engineers at Nokia brag about the number of megapixels a new phone has. But they don’t understand that if you can’t find the button to use the camera on the phone, it doesn’t matter how many megapixels it is.”

I run into this problem a lot within companies. It’s a typical “engineering culture.” In these environments, functionality is the dominant focus of the product development organizations. While functionality is clearly important, it represents only one of the three components of experience.

Design cultures, on the other hand, address the requirements of all three aspects of an experience:

  • Functional: Does it do what people want it to do?
  • Accessible: How easy is it for people to do what they want to do?
  • Emotional: How does it make people feel?

Even if a product has all of the functionality that customers may want, it will still likely fail if it’s hard to use and/or customers don’t feel good about owning or using it.

The bottom line: Focus more on design, less on engineering

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