Design Tradeoffs and Wearables


Barry Braunstein

June 8, 2016

In an ideal world, every product we create would have all the features and capabilities you’d ever want – of course, this would eventually not work out for the producers of these products as why would you need to buy the next generation?

As with most things, the reality is that there are compromises and tradeoffs made in order to get a product to market at a price point and time frame that meet your stated goals. Product definition often starts with a wish list of all the capabilities, features, specifications, price point, etc., that you think (or research has shown) your customers will want. While there may be gaps or uncertain areas, having a starting point for engineering to evaluate and respond is a critical first step in the process.

The next step is harder: prioritizing the features and capabilities, and identifying the “must-haves” vs. “nice to haves” as engineering will likely tell you that you can’t have it all at the price point, size, weight, performance, etc. that you’re looking for. Do you really need 10 hours of battery life, or would 8 hours be sufficient? What are the use cases for the product you’re developing, and what percentage of the user base do those use cases represent? If you’re going to add cost, size, weight, etc. to the product to satisfy only 5% of the users, is that worth it?

These tradeoffs are especially true in the wearables space, where size, weight, fit, comfort, cost, battery life, etc. are all factors that must be considered and weighed. Does the product need to be waterproof or water resistant? If it has a screen, should it be easily readable in bright sunlight? How does the power source renew? What connectivity (if any) does it have and how often is that needed?

Use cases and typical customer profiles are essential to this discussion – understanding your target customer/audience and what you think they will be satisfied with when going into the discussion with engineering will save time and yield a more fruitful set of discussions and decisions. You may decide that instead of one product, you really need several at different price points, sizes, etc. in order to address the breadth of market you’re going after. These are not new concepts – as an example, laptop makers have been developing products this way for a long time offering different weights, screen sizes, battery life, etc. at different price points.

You may not have all the answers up front, but having an understanding of your priorities, what you’re willing to tradeoff, and your “must haves” vs. “nice to haves” will ultimately streamline your development process and help get your product to market faster, at less cost, and will likely lead to better market success.

About the author

Barry is responsible for Acorn’s sales and business development activities in the eastern United States.