Great products are now becoming part of a richer experience that defines who we are. As such, entrepreneurs must stop putting such a narrow focus on product design and ask themselves a simple question: How can I improve people’s lives? This is the dawn of a new era -- one in which we don’t create products and services for users, but create products that are in service of people’s lives.
This new breed of products is solving human needs not by asking people to do or consume more, but by taking away cumbersome tasks, responsibilities, buttons and activities. We have seen (and feared) this change in industry throughout the ages, where machines and software took on the roles of manual workers. But in the world outside manufacturing, removing the burden of yesterday’s technology can help someone get more out of their life without the negative impact.
A few exemplars are emerging in this new era of life enhancers. Companies such as Nest, Jawbone and Google are creating products that truly serve the people who integrate them into their lives. These companies are approaching product design not just by identifying a user need (and creating a product to solve it) but by asking the question, "how can we make people’s lives better?" Their answer: Not optimizing a task through technology but changing our relationship with what technology can do for us.
What’s special about these companies is that they know their story and they bring it to life through the products they create. They have something they want to see come true in the world. It transcends -- but doesn’t eliminate -- the identification of a user need or pain point that most design processes focus on. Knowing your story can lead to products that have a larger and longer impact on people’s lives.
For example, Nest is not simply a digital version of a thermostat that lets you adjust your room temperature with a delightful interface or smartphone. It is a product that comes from a company with a quest to make you comfortable and safe. Their products remove the need for you to manage and adjust, or be concerned about cost and the impact energy consumption has on the environment.
Jawbone Up is a cool way to track your steps, but it’s also a partner to make you a healthier, more balanced and ultimately a happier person. It solves a problem -- it makes keeping track of your fitness and health much easier -- allowing you to seamlessly integrate good health into your everyday life.
Google Loon, a network of balloons that provides internet access to people in remote areas, takes its story to another level when it comes to scale and technological ambition. Loon’s quest to give access to everyone on Earth is exemplified through its product, making Google’s story of organizing the world’s information and making it universally accessible a reality.
Products such as these create a new kind of relationship with their consumers. It’s no longer the new feature, the latest upgrade or the shinier edition that matter. It’s the positive impact it has on their lives outside the product itself. That’s the story people want to talk about and share with their friends.