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Design Fails

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Within the ID department, students have quite some opportunities to learn about and practice within the expertise area of business and entrepreneurship. However, with all the knowledge and skills in the world, some designs simply do not become a success when brought to the market. Why not? Was the design just not a great design? Was it too innovative for society? Or was there just no need for the design? Not only startups fail, also large companies like Google occasionally have a fail. Designers can not only use the successes but also the failures of others to get the best out of their own designs, no need to make the same mistakes. 

Google Glass Explorer

Google launched Google Glass Explorer in 2014. They promised a hands-free device for smarter and faster hands-on work. They targeted individual consumers, who could pay a great deal of money just to be the first ones to be able to use it. The Google Glass was sold for $1500 to the so-called Glass Explorers, a group of early adopters who had the opportunity to be part of the Explorer Program. Google did not provide much information about the device which made that the program become somewhat of a social experiment about the boundaries of privacy and connectedness. The results of the “experiment” were, unfortunately for Google, not very positive. The Glass caused quite some fuss. Some people even accused the wearers of secretly shooting footage of other people. The Google Glass Explorer was thus certainly not a success and Google decided to stop producing the product at the beginning of 2015.

Google Glass Enterprise

Clearly, Google learned something about the lack of success of the Google Glass Explorer and announced a new version of the Glass in 2017. This new version was called the Enterprise edition, a name arguing an apparent shift in target user due to the addition of the word enterprise. This time Google handled it differently. They targeted a clear audience and were evident about the functions of the glass and what it could be used for. Factory workers were the new target users, they are provided with assistive information by the Glass and it helps them improve their productivity. This version was received way better than the Explorer version. Luckily for Google as they mentioned that this was no longer an experiment like three years ago but a real product ready to be sold.

This Google Glass Explorer example is a famous example of a design fail. So many things went wrong with this design which could have affected Google greatly. Luckily it didn’t, Google realized the mistakes they had made and came back with a stronger product. The first time they were targeting the wrong audience. Or you could say they weren’t targeting a specific audience at all. They were vague about what the product actually was, which made that people had no clue what to do with it. This was also related to the fact that there was simply no demand for the product, the product did not help the users with a specific problem they experienced. Also, the fact that the product was very exclusively available contributed to the failure. Especially considering that the initial target users were individual consumers, who should have relatively easy access to the product. Lastly, when going a little more in-depth into the psychology of new product adoption you can see that there was no balance between the required degree of behavior change and the degree of product change involved. These two factors can be combined into a scheme, such as that of John Gourville. Gourville’s scheme can be used to predict new product adoption. In the case of Google Glass, users needed to change their behavior greatly in order to integrate the product into their daily lives and the product itself was very different from what they were used to. The product, therefore, became a so-called long-haul product: a product with a slow road to adoption, due to high consumer resistance. It’s a good thing that Google kept going with the Google Glass as many products and technologies we now take for granted started in a similar way. You could argue that the Explorer was thus not a failure but just a smart move to prepare the world for innovation.

text Femke van der Loo

visuals Christiaan Bloo

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