Category: Innovate

Product Design Inputs for a Standing Desk

Invisible Bed has been an interesting product company.
As a recent
owner of a wall mounted sit/ stand desk, I recently shared some product design inputs with the CEO. They were well received.

The Product:

The Challenge:
1.Pre-attached table-top – makes installation a challenge even for a 2-person team, as the table-top weight causes the swing-arms to open
What I would do instead:
Keep the table-top separate. Maybe include a clamp on the swing-arms, onto which the table-top can subsequently be clamped onto. This might prevent the swing-arms from constantly opening.

2.Desk design – causes the unit in fullycollapsed position to swing outward and downward when unlocked. And the locking mechanism deforms if the desk is inadvertently lifted without unlocking – either way, risks injury to users or children who unlock it and are in the path when it swings outward
What I would do instead:
Offset the design so that the center of gravity falls within the unit itself, preventing it from swinging outward. It would then need to be manually lifted into position by the user, also automatically reducing the possibility of small children getting hurt as the unit would not swing open even if unlocked.
Or alternatively (simpler but boring option), a stronger locking mechanism.

This idea was part of an initiative called RattL ’em. and was shared with the CEO of the company, who was thrilled with the inputs, and plans to incorporate it in the future design.

What is RattL ’em?: We are constantly fascinated by companies, products and services.
So whenever a company catches our curiosity, we offer them an idea (a new product, service, or feature/ improvement idea), or highlight a concern area. Someday, we hope we can send an idea out into the world everyday.
We do this for free, and for fun. And the company receiving the idea is free to use it, with no financial or other obligation toward us. It is our way of trying to be the best in the field of people innovation.

Everything as a Service

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Over the past decade, the business world has had a real attraction to making everything a service. And rightly so. Would you rather struggle to repeatedly sell your product to the same customer? Or would it be better to offer it on a subscription model where you can keep improving it over time, and charge users a regular fee for using it? From furniture and tech products to cars, web hosting and food apps. I’m all for the services model.
 
However, you can’t help compare the process of buying good ol’ products whenever you would need them, to subscription based services. Let me know what you think..
 
In FMCG products, larger SKUs are more expensive, but (almost) always cheaper per unit than smaller quantity SKUs.
Increased manufacturing, distribution costs, and profit margins affect the price of a product. But that price applies to all customers, new or loyal ones. As does any promotion, that does not differentiate between old and new customers.
 
Compare that with technology and web service companies. You pay a monthly, quarterly or annual fee for services they offer. Technology companies, like any other business, have costs that tend to grow over time. And their discounts to convert free-, or non-users to paid users are far more tempting than consumer product discounts. Rightly so.
 
But these discounts strain the operations of many of these tech companies, forcing them to create lean models of operations. That’s the upside! Is anything more fascinating than Uber needing only a 3-member team to manage every new location it expands to?
 
But once that discount period is over, fees of many tech services companies goes up, year after year. And similar to consumer product customers, there is no growing advantage of staying loyal (apart from a superior offering itself) to a brand. While customers of consumer products still benefit from any benefits offered to new/ non-paying customers, that often does not happen with tech services companies.
 
And therein lies the anomaly. Alert consumers of a tech service would find themselves reviewing the service and its benefits, comparing with competitors, or even just weighing the pros and cons of retaining any such service, each time it is up for renewal.
 
I’ve been using the MS Office 365 service for almost 8 years, and the older MS Office software before that. And while my subscription was on auto-renewal for many years, at one point I realized how the fee had steadily risen. While new users were still getting it at a price almost 40% lower (and as a friend mentioned, even lower on Amazon on festival days). It seemed unfair, and there was nothing stopping me from simply registering as a new user with a new email id, and simply moving files from one cloud to another.
 
Similarly, hosting is a ruthless market for service providers. All service providers offer heavy discounts on new subscriptions, but those fees skyrocket once that initial period is over. And in many cases, you don’t want to avail the heavy discount and commit to many years subscription without knowing the quality of the service and support.
 
I wonder if this anomaly seems more in price-sensitive markets like India, or it is a pattern across the world.
 
And I wonder if there is a better model that might help fix this apparent anomaly (for customers) and challenge that service companies face. One that is adequately fair to the service companies that work hard to bring incredible services our way, and to stand apart from the competition. And that is also fair to the average user of those services who is not thrilled about being fleeced for a service he or she has been using loyally for sometime, and then finding out that it is being offered to newcomers at a fraction of the cost they pay – with no extra benefits to show for the loyalty.
 
The ideal model would be one that adequately compensates tech service companies, while also avoiding the highly skewed pricing between newbies and loyalists. And tech companies need to lose any fat.
 
I am always reminded of Uber and Ola. It is popularly known that Uber just needs a 3-member team to expand to a new city. And in 2012, I remember forgetting an empty gym bag in an Ola cab, and ended up being sent to two of their sprawling offices in Mumbai!
 
The business model that extends from the founders’ vision and extends to become part of the culture of the organization, will determine how soon and how much profits your business can and will make.

Could Musical Roads address Global Speeding and Road Safety


Pic: source

There are roads in Hungary that plays music!
A musical road was first created in 1995 Denmark, by two artists. Given how brilliant a concept, I wonder why its Danish origins seem almost obvious. Just like the concept of hygge and especially Lego.

Musical roads also exist in other countries like Hungary, Japan, South Korea, the United States, China, Iran, Taiwan, and Indonesia. Many of these are either created by artists, or as in the case of Hungary, in memory of an artist. The Japanese interestingly stumbled upon it by a fortunate accident involving engineer Shizuo Shinoda, who unintentionally scraped some markings on the road with a bulldozer. Driving over that section created tunes.
[Read more on musical roads here].

Once you get past the amazement of musical roads in general, you can’t help realize the possible solution it presents for controlling speed on roads and highways across the world.

Imagine popular tunes are recreated onto roads notorious for speeding. Anyone going faster or slower than the popular tune that a road plays, which would be adapted for the speed range on that road, riding or driving outside that range would simply sound..wrong.
And it might nudge you to adjust your speed to within the prescribed limit! 💡

If the installations are affordable and convenient to install/remove, they could be updated with the latest tracks regularly, to keep up with times.

Another aspect that might contribute to its possible effectiveness is the fact that unlike the car music system, it cannot be turned off. The flipside of course, is the possibility of teens (the usual suspects and culprits of speeding) intentionally speeding to make the tune sound funny.

A subsequent study could perhaps look into finding any correlations between those who tend to speed, and those who don’t have a ear for music… 😉

[The musical road – Hungary](https://youtu.be/rM5oX0KbtUw)

How the Future of Text Content Should Be

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As our attention spans go from low to almost non-existent in an increasingly noisy world, I get especially wary whenever I need to read a verbose report. Especially ones with unusually large paragraphs. You know it might be important, but just the way it is structured makes it very difficult to read to the end. Not to mention all those hours of sleep you missed over the years seems to visit you all together.

When texting friends or colleagues about topics of interest, I tend to type some longish messages myself. But what I have been doing, is structuring them in a manner that I think makes it a little easier for someone to read. I’m not exactly sure how effective it is, but in my opinion, going forward, it might be easier for people to read text content across platforms (websites, news articles, blog posts, social media posts, tweets, etc.) if you toss the traditional paragraph and format it the way I have been…

This here is a paragraph I pasted from the Creative Commons site. And below it is the same paragraph in my ‘attempt to make it more readable’ format…

Original Format:
Use Creative Commons tools to help share your work. Our free, easy-to-use copyright licenses provide a simple, standardized way to give your permission to share and use your creative work— on conditions of your choice. You can adopt one of our licenses by sharing on a platform, or choosing a license below.

How I think it should be to make it easier to read+understand:
Use Creative Commons tools
to help share your work.
Our free, easy-to-use copyright licenses
provide a simple, standardized way
to give your permission to share and use your creative work— on conditions of your choice.
You can adopt one of our licenses
by sharing on a platform,
or choosing a license below.

While this format would be horrible to available space and formats and layouts we are familiar with, it might just help your audience better understand more complex thoughts you are trying to convey.

Thoughts?

Product Use and Experience – Range and Layers

There is a beauty to how some products (and software) are designed.

Think scissors. If we want to cut something fast, we use the forward section of the blades (speed multiplier). Want to cut something fatter or tougher, use the rear end of the blades (effort multiplier); and cut slower, or risk breaking the scissors.

And Mixer grinders. Need to grind coffee beans to a powder? Start with the low speed, and slowly increase. Jump to the highest speed fast, and you could damage the blades or motor.

Cars (MT) and commuter bikes follow a similar rule. More torque for climbing on lower gears, and better speed on higher gears. Try climbing in a high gear, and you’ll stall. Go fast in a lower gear (or drop to a low gear at high speed), and you wear out the gear.

Think Software. I’ve always admired the MS Office suite. Layered, so novices like the teenage us got some basic fun. And as our task complexity deepened, the software opened up to keep pace.

Physical products have manuals. Tech service cos would benefit if they spelt out the expertise/ features they offered. Many of us use online services not knowing half their features; many of which could simplify our work or make things more enjoyable.
Make layers appear as the user gets ready for them.

Pic: source

 

 

We Need Better Staplers


Pic: source

It took a nice bleeding cut, thanks to a tough staple pin that held some car mats together, for me to realize how hostile the world was for animals.

Staple-less staplers exist, but are far from commonplace. Got to wonder why they are so expensive. A cursory look on Amazon showed the cheapest (mini) stapler available for INR 80, while staple-less staplers seemed to cost around 17x more!

To elaborate a little, while we could get away with folding corners of a few unimportant sheets to keep them together, important documents could risk tearing or getting misplaced.

So, how does one hold larger documents together; fastened with a material that when disposed, does not pose a risk to (external injury to, or if accidentally consumed by) animals?

Where Should Laptop Charging Lights be, and Why are Laptop Keyboards so Small?

Firstly, should laptop charging lights be put on the side the charger plugs in?
That is where the charger plugs in, but not where we sit. Which means many a times, it would be an effort to confirm charging.

How about on the front? Better, since most often, many of us (remember to) charge the laptop only when using. Still not the greatest place since it might require a slight head movement to check.

Or should it be placed someplace else?
Of course, there’s also the flip-side, that of prominently placed lights being a subtle distraction to the user.

Till date, Apple’s indicator on the charger end logically seems to be one of the best spots.
Though surely there are other spots or angles that might be more easily visible to the user.

Where do you think the charging lights should be?

And, on the topic of laptops..their keyboard sizes in particular… guess most of us assume what we buy is all we get…

I stumbled upon a clip of a 1995 IBM ThinkPad 701. Surely pricey at $1500-3200 a laptop, but look at that keyboard!
Incredible! Why isn’t this feature standard in laptops now?

Makes you wonder why the most useful of technology never seems to survive time.

 

 

The Gap between Good Intentions and Impact

The gap between good intentions and impact of the resulting action (or choice) has been an area of interest to me.

A decade ago, a Brad Pitt linked non-profit messed up an affordable homes project [2008-2015] in New Orleans.
Meant to be green and sustainable, the homes had severe structural and mold problems. 6 of 150 are in good condition. They were not even adequately designed for heavy rains the region received.

Even the best intentioned plans must cross the Usability bridge and be adopted by users to achieve their purpose.
However often, noble intent overshadows recipient needs.

Few years ago, the Delhi government messed up a similarly noble homeless shelter project.

Growing up here in India, another amusing example I’d hear of, is slum redevelopment.
Governments built apartments for city slum dwellers in city suburbs. But oftentimes, many of these dwellers would rent out their new accommodation (thus gaining a new source of income), and move back to their old slum, which was familiar as a place, people, and place of employment.

In all of these cases, the beneficiaries are not to blame. They are not too demanding or picky or greedy.
Despite the best of intentions, it is simply a failure to design a more caring solution for them.

What if the Comments Section on Social Media had a Search Feature?

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Say you create a post on social media, and friends or acquaintances comment on it over the next few days or weeks.
Now, sometimes it gets tricky if the comments function is basic.

If there are a few new comments before the next time you check that account, finding them could be a little tricky. Especially if someone comments in reply to your or someone else’s reply. Or if the platform takes you broadly to that section but not specifically to the new comment.

Facebook does a decent job of highlighting the region around a new comment, making it easier to spot.
And LinkedIn gives you the option of sorting comments by Most Relevant and Most Recent.

However, this still leaves a lot to desire.

What if social media platforms could include a search function as a feature on comments?

For instance, LinkedIn has a fairly good search function on messages. It allows a user to sort messages by Archived, from Connections, Unread, InMail, and Spam. However, commenting on posts can get messy really fast if you have a conversation in comments with multiple people, and each one replying to their respective sub-threads.

Facebook gets a bit tricky on birthdays, especially if you are someone who tries to respond to everyone who wished you, and then there are a few small interactions happening in those sub-threads.

Would be nice if the search feature in comments across social media platforms would let us sort by recency, maybe even filter by commenter, etc.

Social media platforms also collapse the comments section for appearance and probably speed, and show only a few comments at a time. With each ‘next’ click, Facebook (and probably LinkedIn) show the next 10 comments, Instagram shows the next 3 only!
Would be great for social media platforms to have a ‘See All Comments’ feature.

From a development perspective, I would imagine it would be similar to adding the Filter function to a spreadsheet.

Do you feel the need for a more effective comments section on social media?

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