Design for experience, not features

The iPhone is one of the least usable phones for sending text and email but gets the highest consumer satisfaction of any smartphone. Why?  It’s product design that’s based around experience not features.

Small usability, big love

An average iPhone user makes almost three times more errors per text message than someone using a hard-key QWERTY phone (see  But googling the terms “iPhone love” gets about 336 million results and the iPhone has higher customer satisfaction than any other smartphone (see JDPower consumer research, here

Experience not features

It’s not just less usable.  If anything, the iPhone has less features than many competitors.  Mobile email, voicemail and mobile web browsing are hardly new, you can’t forward a text or voicemail and the camera is positively primitive.

But it does have Apple’s trademark obsession about experience.  This isn’t just in the fluidity of the interface or the resolved simplicity of the case.  If you buy one in an Apple store it will be “served” to you with a flourish like Michelin-starred food.

Product developers spend lots of time benchmarking product features and prioritising them using techniques like conjoint analysis.  What we need to do more of is design, customer ethnography and journey mapping to build experiences out of our products.

About Simon Kirby

Digital strategist, CX advisor and agile Product Owner. My core expertise is aligning the political, strategic and human factors that determine the success of digital, CX and innovation projects. Doing that helps organisations deliver better experiences, happier customers, distinctive propositions and improved commercial bottom-line

3 Responses to Design for experience, not features

  1. Allen Brown says:

    As any statistics student kno, you can prove anything you want to prove if you design the experiment properly. Picking people who have had an iPhone for just a month and pitching them against people who’ve been texting half their life is a great way to prove what you set out to prove. have missed the point of the iPhone in the same way Nelson missed the signal at the Battle of Copenhagen. Nobody buys an iPhone so they can send text messages. Texting is _so_ 2007!

    The iPhone is simply gorgeous. You want one because you want one – and then after you buy it you find it can do things you never knew it could do. You justify it to yourself later.

    Blogged from my iPhone.

  2. What Apple have consistently done well is take the time to get their designs right. Too often a product is rushed to market because of external factors, and that leads to compromises and a flawed final experience.

    The recent grumblings about the lack of features on the upcoming iPad will all fade into the background (I suspect) once the interface is experienced first hand and users realise that it does one thing (casual web surfing) better than any other device.

  3. Saurav says:

    The iPhone also had its antecedents in design by incorporating the opinions of an often overlooked consumer group in technology design; women.

    Instead of the usual techno-gadget-geek 30-something male (think the car designed by Homer Simpson), Apple asked women to come up with a design that would work for them. The result? One button only… and an aesthetic most handset manufacturers would give their right thumbs for. “Convergence” has long been the holy grail and long seemed the impossible dream. Of course; asking the same focus group the same question rarely led to anything that would appeal to anyone outside of the uber-geek community (more whistles, more bells!). A new customer group with a very different perspective, untainted by previous forays in pursuit of said holy grail, with a different set of needs and wants led to the heart of the promised land (in convergence terms anyway).

    Wrapping up exclusive distribution deals into the bargain guaranteed a certain cache (the haves and the have nots) and the ultimate must have gizmo for the dedicated follower of fashion as well as the aforementioned hirsuite, unkempt techno troll. Cool is cool and it always sells, but the moral of the story is that while the customer is smart they’re not always that smart and you may need to venture outside of the traditional target customer group to find your source of inspiration.

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