“Companies know that they can’t get any further with their left-brain processing; they are dying to engage the right brain. Artists change how we see the world — and that can have value in the way people do business.” John Maeda, Design Partner at Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caulfield and Byers.

Good technology design that puts the customer experience first is increasingly a brand differentiator and can give a company the edge over competitors. Exceptional user-centric design can transform, and even revolutionise industries, as seen with Air New Zealand’s Skycouch™, and with Apple’s various iconic products.

In 2011, Air New Zealand introduced the Economy Skycouch™ to its fleet of Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. Though seemingly simple, the Kiwi-designed lie-flat economy seats are the result of three years of work by a team that included top designers, boat builders, seat manufacturers and the aircraft maker Boeing. Designers observed focus groups of passengers who modelled the real life flight experiences of various target demographics. They wanted to understand the customer experience during long flights and get insight into what worked well and what didn’t. The end result was a customer-centred design innovation: seats that convert into a flat “couch” area that provides passengers with a flexible space to relax, stretch out, or for kids to use as a play area. For Air New Zealand, it’s an innovation that sets it apart from competitors and showcases the carrier as a leader and innovator in the airline industry.

When ClearPoint started in 2007, the Apple iPhone had just launched and it forever changed our expectations of what a mobile phone should be.  It’s amazing to see how, within seven years, a phone that was considered revolutionary at the time has now become the baseline for today’s mobile phones. Like previous Apple innovations, i.e. Mac mouse and iPod click wheel, the iPhone is a huge success because of its user interface design and features. It’s elegant, intuitive and offers a multitude of complex features packaged into a simple design. Simply put: simplicity sells.

Applying the “simplicity sells” design philosophy to software development can achieve similar success.  By nature, software is inherently complex. However, good software design should hide the complexity, and be intuitive and easy to use for the end user.  Because if it’s not, what’s the point?  Who will use it if it’s too hard to navigate through?

ClearPoint applied a user-centric approach to the new online dairy commodity trading platform we designed for GlobalDairyTrade (GDT), a division of Fonterra. The challenge was that there was no obvious blueprint for the platform. The business model of GDT is unique and the platform needed to reflect those individual needs. Before embarking on any designs, ClearPoint worked closely with GDT to understand their business strategy and the needs of their customers, the global dairy companies that use the system to trade product internationally.

The platform’s design puts the end user’s experience first; it is intuitively easy to find what you are looking for whether you are an administrator, bidder or seller. Via the website www.globaldairytrade.info, sellers and bidders access their own portals that guide them through the Trading Event lifecycle. The simplicity of navigation belies the operational complexity that sits beneath. “Call-to-action” buttons give clear instructions and interactive graphics provide on-demand data and statistics. The system reduces risk for GDT and their sellers and bidders. It has dramatically reduced administration time for GDT’s Operations team, allowing more focus on account management. GDT believed that if they could leverage the new platform to enhance their reputation and further manage risk on behalf of their customers (the sellers and bidders), they would attract new customers. Recent overall business results show that the platform has helped achieve that goal: in the last 18 months, GDT has gained four more sellers, carrying a significant dollar value in potential revenues.

In addition to our client work, good design principles are also applied internally to ClearPoint’s own company structure.  Stay tuned for the last of our Technology Design blogs which talks about the intersection of design in leadership and creating a culture that encourages creativity and innovation.

Karin is a user interface/user experience (UI/UX) development expert at ClearPoint. Her passion is creating beautifully designed, user-friendly interfaces that make it easy for people to use ClearPoint’s exceptional software.

Technology and Design Blog series – Part 2 of 3

Up next, Part 3: Design in Leadership – Creating a culture of Innovation