How do you create an innovative aware winning User Interface for a next generation technology product in 90 days?  One that was awarded one of the top 20 “cool products of the year” in 2010?

Problem: The challenge was to create a “next generation” innovative tablet based phone for corporate users back in 2009.  Standard UI development firms were consulted without finding a suitable design group that wanted to work interactively.  Half of the budget for the design was already gone, deadlines were closing in and a collection of jpg’s by a design firm was all that had been developed to date.  The effort was in serious trouble and we were meeting with customers for feedback on a product that was still at the concept level.  What are you going to do, what should you focus on with time and money running out?

Solution: Given the challenge of innovating a product for corporate users, it was apparent that we needed to build a new product in an iterative fashion, based upon the feedback and interaction with our ideal customers, not chose the “right” design firm that was confident they could design the user interface for us based upon their expertise with past designs.    What was also quite apparent, is that the typical practices for gathering user feedback (interviews, focus groups, etc.) were not suitable for getting in front of VPs and C level officers on a regular basis such that we could use their feedback to shape and fine tune the design process.

We choose to focus on placing ourselves ourselves in an environment where we could get feedback from executives every work day to allow us to build a user interface that they confirmed (both by ratings, and by facial feedback) was intuitive and fun to use.  We choose Las Vegas as our feedback center, because of the multiple business conferences and executives that are available each day. For the interview process, we selected an attractive co-worker who we believed executives would, when asked by her, be willing to give 5 minutes of their time to look at her tablet with various UI phone options and give their feedback.  We used a system of forced choices to evaluate user (brain) preferences for interacting with the application to gather feedback on how executives preferred or expected the device to function, and using a design firm in England that worked (our) evening hours, to rapidly prototype and validate how the entire operating system was to work, using only .jpgs on an existing tablet.    The end result, was that in 90 days we developed a fresh, full featured phone, video, email and calendar application UI  with a more than 85% approval rating on the communication and collaboration features and functionality of the device before one line of code was ever written! You can see the end result in this Flare you-tube video.