Ben Gilman

Replicating Apple's secret sauce

This article from Techradar makes some interesting points about Apple’s success in interface and product design - primarily that pleasure is the key to interfaces and that is the base ingredient of Apple’s success.

For me, one section jumped out discussing the original Mac team’s approach to design:

“Rather than survey a bunch of users on every decision, the Mac team decided each issue among themselves, invariably going for the option that might amuse a user the most, that would give a user the most pleasure, and therefore imbue the Mac with personality.”

As one who has a love-hate relationship with user workshops and focus groups this is music to my ears - confidence in your own abilities over those of the crowd. Clearly the problem is that those self-sourced decisions have to be resolved correctly. Undoubtedly other companies have taken this auteur approach and failed miserably where Apple have succeeded. Equally companies have released products fully backed by a panel of target audience users that have failed. Apple’s magic-touch is indisputable and ongoing. Surely not, though, impossible to replicate.

“…it’s one thing to be, uh, ‘creatively inspired’ by what other companies are doing, it’s quite another to have a philosophy that enables you to do it first.”

Which leads me to two conclusions:

  1. Believe in the vision of your product: The designers and engineers on Apple products seem to believe completely in the vision of what they’re building. More importantly than that though, that belief runs through the whole company, all the way down from His Jobs himself. That belief has to be above all things - the team will make the right decisions as long as that remains the case.
  2. Create a pleasurable experience: Every product should be fun to use, even if it’s subject matter is far from it. Online banking could, and should, be fun in some small way - it’s never going to beat playing a game or watching a film but a nod towards enjoyment as well as functionality and security can play a massive part in creating a positive feeling around your product and your company.

Now to quit rambling - back to the kitchen, I have sauce to mix.

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