This is “Functional Design and User Ignored”, section 7.3 from the book Creating Services and Products (v. 1.0). For details on it (including licensing), click here.

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7.3 Functional Design and User Ignored

Barlow was the head of our IT group and he was also the head scorekeeper for the plant’s golf league. Every Monday morning Barlow would take the golf scores from the past week of play and compute the league standings as well as calculate the handicaps. Barlow had been doing this for years. Someone in human resources thought that he was spending too much time on the league and they also thought it was a burden to Barlow. So HR commissioned a golf handicapping and league scoring system. A complete cost–benefit analysis was actually implemented and the payback was deemed acceptable, so the green light was given to the project. A team of analysts and programmers were assigned to gather requirements and implement the system. Tens of thousands of dollars were spent developing and programming the system. The system was used just a couple of times. It was a pain to use, the results were incorrect, and most importantly, Barlow could finish his calculations faster than it would take to key-in the data and generate the reports. Barlow actually liked his manual system and took pride in his ability to produce weekly updates in a few hours. He said as such, in quiet tones, but he was not listened to.

In the current market context, functionally designed products and services are sometimes at risk, unless the meaning of the design is to convey simplicity and functionality. There are numerous examples of successful products and services that simply do what they are supposed to do, because they are functional. Functionally designed products can be even more successful when they are accompanied by user-centered design and meaning-centered design.