Dentists are famous for not going to the dentist themselves. Designers are often on the opposite side of the spectrum and happily surround themselves with objects with great product design. Today, this doesn’t just include consumer electronics and connected devices, but also websites, apps and services that boldly advance the design in their category. At Gigaom’s Roadmap conference, we had five designers from companies like Microsoft, Samsung and Pinterest talk about their favorite tech products.
Here are some of the most notable picks, and what designers like about them:
Medium was the top pick of Pinterest Product Design Manager Mia Blume, who said that it’s reinventing publishing on the web, and added: “As a platform, it’s incredibly well designed.” He love for Medium was shared by Microsoft’s Principal Designer Kat Holmes, who noted that Medium has put “the act of writing a story… right at the heart of the experience.” And The Last Guide Company Co-Founder and CEO Josh Williams even admitted that his company once scrapped a product just before releasing it because it simply looked too much like Medium, which speaks to the influence Medium has had on other publishing platforms and web design in general.
Samsung Open Innovation Center VP Valerie Casey said that every team at Samsung’s Accelerator is now using Slack. “It has given us the conversation back,” she said, calling Slack “the product I wish I had made.” She got a lot of head-nods from her fellow designers on the panel, with Williams pointing out that one of Slack’s strengths is the level of warmth and humanity it brings to communication. “The ability to customize and add your own emoji is just truly bizarre,” but it’s also what makes Slack more likable, he argued. Casey agreed: “It’s lovable. It’s like the puppy of enterprise.”
NEA Partner Dayna Grayson picked Houzz as one of the tech products she loves, in part because it’s very good at serving a specific need. There are plenty of sites out there to show off home designs, she argued, but Houzz helps you to implement a plan to actually redesign your own house. “I love the way it walks you through that experience,” Grayson said.
Microsoft’s Principal Designer Kat Holmes picked something as one of her favorite tech products that she called “an accessibility feature in the basement of a product”: Audible’s Experience Immersion Reading combines the traditional audio book with text, highlighting individual words as they are read aloud. Holmes’ daughter has been using the feature to successfully improve her reading, but observing it also made Holmes think about multi-faceted interactions with technology that she likened to using facial expressions and gestures during a conversation. “There is something promising and exciting about that,” she said.
“Songza is probably my favorite product over the last year period,” said The Last Guide Company’s Josh Williams. The music service, which was recently acquired by Google, uses human curation to compile playlists for certain moments, including some rather bold choices: “One of my favorite is – it’s Monday afternoon, play music for quitting your job,” said Williams. The playlist in question consisted of 90s gangsta rap, which he called “just perfect,” adding: “There is a human aspect to that I think is very delightful.”