26 March 2019 | MOF Team
Products have traditionally been designed with a “wait-and-see” approach. Product teams would design to a hypothesis, measure response post-launch, and dive straight into a Phase 2, confident that their newfound insights would enable them to design more precisely next time around. No sooner would Phase 2 be implemented than user behaviour would evolve again. However, companies like Monzo have challenged convention, getting ahead of the game by putting their designs to the test before launch in an online forum.
Although establishing online brand communities has become commonplace, many are created without a core purpose in mind, which means neither the brand or the community gets much value from contributing.
Lots of brands see these online tribes as a means of communicating brand-centric content to a large group of people loyal to the business. However, the most successful examples of brand communities have been those that have empowered their users and listened to what they have to say.
Monzo was ahead of the game and started building its community even before launching their product. The online banking app’s product designer, Jessica Lascar, discussed the importance of the community to shape the product and how they were able to grow a significant following even before they formally launched.
Monzo saw its online community as an opportunity to collaborate with their users; designing their product around customer needs and removing pain-points with the design. Their online community functions as a forum where new product features are discussed and customer feedback forms the basis of product development. As a result, their brand advocates are their most powerful marketing tool.
When building products, UXers design to a hypothesis, postulating the best solution for users. But with online communities, they can evaluate their hypothesis through open discussion with a large group of users, and measure response before development.
When Monzo was considering rolling out a feature that let users self-exclude from gambling, they decided to ask their community for input. Users could opt to test this functionality in a beta environment and submit their experience with it in a dedicated forum. Incorporating their users’ suggestions and feedback into the design, Monzo released this functionality to a hugely positive reaction.
Not only does this show that Monzo listens to its customers, it also demonstrates compassion: a rarity in the banking sector. Consumers are increasingly likely to demand more ethics of the brands they buy into, and this is a shining example of how to nail it.
Similarly, Lego launched Ideas, a forum where users are able to vote on new ideas for Lego sets or propose their own design. Users vote on the designs and, if successfully launched, the original creator receives 1% of the royalties.
It also encourages participation through running contests, such as ‘design your favourite Ford Mustang’ to challenge Lego-enthusiasts.
Furniture retailer Made.com launched Talent Lab at the V&A in 2017, a platform that allows budding furniture designers to submit product ideas to the website. Ruth Wasserman, Made’s Design Director, commented, “We know that there are many adventurous, innovative ideas in the world that never get brought to life. TalentLAB will shine a spotlight on creativity, helping designers get a foothold in the industry.”
Every two months, Made curates a small selection of submitted designs to launch on TalentLab, which customers can then pledge a deposit on. The most popular designs are put into production and launched on Made.com.
2017’s winning design outshone the competition
“This really puts the power into the hands of the consumer – we’ll start to see some really interesting, quirky pieces this way.” Sarah Akwisombe, Interior Designer
Brands should expect their users to have more of a say than ever in the products that they design. Hence, it is vital for businesses to start thinking outside their brand bubbles and make sure that they are solving real user problems and listening to their (often, brilliant) ideas. It’s a no-brainer.
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