“We want to be like Apple!” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this from teams innovating new products. What they mean is they want their new products to be sleek, attractive, and easy to use – something that does not come easy to most med device manufacturers.
The aspiration is good and noble. If fulfilled, the company is providing customers with things they want and love, improving healthcare, and making money.
However, Don Norman, my mentor, friend and former VP at Apple, makes a strong case for not emulating Apple any more, because at Apple, beauty is coming at the expense of function:
“Apple has gotten carried away by the slick, minimalist appearance of their products at the expense of ease of use, understandability, and the ability to do complex operations without ever looking at the manual. Today, the products are beautiful, but for many of us, confusing.” -Don Norman
For the med device industry, the challenges are even greater because of the inherent complexity of most medical devices. In fact, many companies over-engineer devices with far more capabilities than customers want or need. We hear from clinicians and the C-suite time and time again that they’ll choose the workhorse machine that’s easy to use and provides the most needed functionality, over the uber-sophisticated, feature-laden device that can do more but is harder to use.
If, on top of providing too many features, designers, engineers, and product managers prioritize aesthetics and the “cool” factor over discoverability and ease of use, then clinicians and executives get even more turned off.
On the other hand, when the team puts the customer first and only provides features that solve meaningful problems customers care about, and makes them attractive and easy to use within the fast-paced clinical workflow, then they’re on the way to a winner.
So be like Apple was, when they practiced good design principles and made beautiful devices that were easy to use and love. And keep customers first!