Every company wants to come up with innovative products that dazzle their existing customers, while earning them new ones. However, as the design firm IDEO has observed, innovation isn’t solely the result of a smooth user experience.
According to IDEO, design thinking “brings together what is desirable from a human point of view with what is technologically feasible and economically viable”. In fact, successful products sit at the centre of these three criteria:
- Desirability, a product that people want or need
- Feasibility, a product that can be created with new or existing technology
- Viability, a product that will be profitable
Together these three criteria create the ideal conditions for innovation. However, designing, building and launching the product becomes riskier if a product doesn’t check one or more of these boxes. To make sure your product is desirable, feasible and viable you need to perform research and review your ideas early in the design process to determine if your product idea meets each of these criteria.
In this post we’ll define desirability, feasibility and viability and provide examples to illustrate how these criteria keep you on the right track when designing any product.
Products that meet the criteria of desirability are wanted or needed by customers or users. After all, if you haven’t come up with a product someone is willing to buy, you won’t make any money from it. To ensure the desirability of your product, it has to solve a problem for someone in a way that’s intuitive and pleasing.
Many companies don’t have employees who think like designers. Therefore, they tend to focus on a product’s viability and feasibility while overlooking its desirability. This is a big mistake as it could contribute to people not using the company’s latest product.
That’s where UX designers come in. UX designers are experts at determining if a product is desirable. In particular, performing UX research early in the design process can help UX designers determine if a product idea is solving a real problem for people. UX research can also help UX designers figure out if there’s a more important problem users need solved and if a product should then be refocused.
Example: Instagram Reels
For example, Instagram built a reputation as a great place to share still images, yet recently it introduced Reels, a feature that promote video over still images. The company implemented these features so it could compete with the video-centric app TikTok. As a result, the features that were introduced were viable because there was a clear business case for them.
They were intended to take away users from TikTok and increase Instagram’s user base – two outcomes that would be economically beneficial to the company. The video features were feasible because Instagram was capable of building them quickly and without spending too much money to do so.However, once Instagram launched its new video features, it quickly became clear that they weren’t desirable.
Instagram users didn’t want or need the platform they used to share still photos to become a repository for video instead. They already had TikTok for that. Instagram’s new video features led to a backlash among its existing users, not the increase in new users and increase in engagement Instagram had hoped for. In other words, Instagram was solving a problem that users didn’t really have and its video features were rejected because of it.
It’s only once we know we’re solving the right user problem that we can delve deeper into the design process but the quest for desirability doesn’t stop there.
We need to continue to make sure we’re creating a desirable product by ensuring our solution actually solves the problem we intend and that it does so in a way that will create a positive experience for users. When we’ve done each of these things, as seen in the diagram below, that we’ve achieved desirability.
Feasibility means a product can be built, either by the company that came up with the idea for the product or a third-party that has the technological know-how. In order for a product to be feasible, the company must be confident that the technology needed to build the product can be developed. They also have to be confident that it can be done so in a reasonable time-frame and at a price point that ensures the product remains viable.
Feasibility doesn’t focus solely on whether or not the technology can be implemented. It also depends on whether new team members need to build the product, if the new technology could benefit the company’s other products and whether the product can be distributed in a way that will ensure it reaches the right customers.
Example: electric car chargers
A motor company wants to design a charger that will charge electric cars in the same amount of time that it currently takes to fill up a car’s gas tank. Given that charging an electric vehicle takes several hours, this would certainly be a desirable product for those who own eclectic cars and, as long as the price was reasonable, it would also be viable.
However, the technology for the product doesn’t yet exist, so the product may not be feasible.
In order to decide if it makes sense to design this product, the company must ask:
- Can we develop the technology for this product?
- How long will it take?
- How much will it cost?
- How will the product be distributed so the right people can use it?
If the answers to any of those questions aren’t favourable to the company and the long-term viability of the product, the product won’t be feasible.
Products that meet the criteria of viability make smart business sense. These are products that will make or save money for a company both immediately following their launch and in the long term.
To determine if a product is viable, companies need to examine:
- who will be willing to pay for the product
- how they will pay for it
- if that will add up to profitability
After all, if the product is something consumers want but it’s too expensive, it isn’t viable. In addition, a product’s profits need to be sustainable, given no company wants to spend money building a product only to discover they can’t turn first-time buyers into long-term customers.
Example: niche streaming service
There could be a business case for launching a new streaming service that features only Christmas movies. People love to watch Christmas movies in December and the streaming service promises to include every Christmas movie ever made in one place. The company behind the service has found that the idea is desirable and that it is technologically feasible. When it’s launched toward the end of the year, many users embrace the new service.
The streamer seems to be on the right track to become profitable in the weeks after its launch. However, the company soon learns it has two problems: first, some of the production companies that own the movies are charging very high fees; and second, after the holidays are over, many of the service’s existing users cancel their subscriptions.
The streaming service’s profits aren’t sustainable because the streaming service will soon have to pay more money to production companies than it will have coming in from users. This means the product isn’t viable in the long-term.
In order to avoid this outcome, companies should perform market research and examine all aspects of their business model early in the design process. If they forget to examine whether or not a product can make money, there’s a risk that the customers they expect to buy their new product won’t be there.
Putting it all together
Without a balance between desirability, feasibility and viability, a product is unlikely to be successful. If even one of these criteria aren’t met, it may be risky and costly to continue to pursue the development of a product.
However, by examining a possible product through the lens of these three criteria, a company can ensure their latest product idea will be desirable to consumers, financially viable and technologically feasible.