Taking a step back from all of the “virtual products” that you can buy and sell online that do not involve any actual physical products. I want to address what I believe is an important factor when it comes to physical products. Does it look good? Is it useful? More importantly, if it looks good, is it also useful??
This is actually more of an important factor than you might think. While it’s true that having a product that looks good is important, it’s even more important that this product perform it’s function well.
For example I have a fireplace in my house. In the almost nine years I’ve live here I have used it maybe three times back in the very beginning. I stopped using it because, while it looks nice, I estimate that like 95% of the heat generated in it goes straight up the chimney. With a roaring fire in it going so hard it almost sounds like a jet engine, you can only feel the warmth from it if you are within about three feet of it. This means that while it looks really nice with the glass doors and brass framing & such, it isn’t very useful at all because I’ll never be able to heat the house with it. Hell, I can’t even heat the room it’s IN with it, never mind the whole house!
That makes it about as useful as breasts on a male hog. It may be interesting to look at (to some anyway, hey I live in Arkansas you know! ;P ), it’s about almost as useful.
Now on the other hand, take the bathroom sink. When you’ve got one of the standard Toto sinks, you’ve got something that looks pretty much like you’d expect it to look. More important than that, it is useful. Large enough for an actual full grown adult to use and it doesn’t manage to get in your way when trying to use it.
So when you’re designing your product go ahead and make sure it looks nice but don’t let your dreams about how you want it to look interfere with it’s function. Form may be important, but function rules.
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