I fell in love with digital, in part, because of the way you can quickly change something if it isn’t working.
Physical objects on the other hand are often thought to be unchangeable once created. Teams are tasked with doing all their research upfront, prototyping and user testing in an effort to be 100% sure of the final solution before building and releasing the product. It’s not always the case though.
Physical objects, like digital, can be iterated using user feedback without having to build a whole new thing.
The new Routemaster – an example of iterating a physical object
Much was written about the new Routemaster buses when they were brought into service in 2011.
They are an updated version of the iconic design. Like the original version, they had old-school conductors and open doors which meant you could hop-on and hop-off anywhere along the route.
They were great. Until it started to warm up in London. Passengers quickly realised that the air conditioning wasn’t up to the job and the buses quickly became hot tin cans.
The back door was another issue. They opened inwards, which meant that anyone on a packed bus standing close to the door was squashed whenever the door opened.
But it’s not all doom and gloom.
Listening to feedback, they retrofitted windows and changed the way the doors opened.
It took a while (they started to install them in 2015), but, I think it’s a great example showing that you can improve the user experience of any product if there is sufficient willpower to do so.
And if you think outside the box, you can often find an alternative way of achieving a goal (fitting windows rather than installing new air conditioning) which might not be perfect, but will be good enough for now.