I’ve been thinking a lot about helpfulness lately (“the property of providing useful assistance“) and therefore usefulness. I’ve also been thinking about data, context and how to draw meaning – something that infographics literally do so well. Anyway, I decided to mesh everything together into the above flowchart. In essence, everything can be useful, but as you add a layer onto each, their usefulness becomes multifaceted and well, more useful!

I believe use can be often forgotten with people unable to question the inherent usefulness of things they create or release due to sentimentality or closeness to the product. They might end up down the road of building something that lacks application and/or true purpose… the adage of finding a solution without a problem. I like how Pieter Peach gets straight to the point with any idea: “How does it change a person’s life?“. And while on this note, don’t get confused about the scope of change – you don’t need to change the world to change a person’s existence. Often the most valuable changes are those that are subtle. Make a small positive difference.

If you bring it back to marketing, which on a base level, involves some sort of value exchange – you can see that the more useful you make a product (i.e. how indisposable it is to a person), the greater the exchange will be in the long run (can be non-monetary).

Provide as much value by being as useful/helpful as possible, and the reward will come…

6 thoughts on “Value lies in usefulness

  1. Hi Kate, Thanks for the thoughsts! You actually helped me out with a new project I am working on which revolves entirely around the usefulness of the content. Cheers, Lauren

  2. Whilst this is most intriguing I guess it is important to point out the importance of meshing the steps of ‘usefulness’ into a system because without a system ‘usefulness’ is lost completely and forever. It boils down to the basics of perception and knowledge and what you do with knowledge and how you make something useful I guess….

  3. Kate, interesting thoughts: perhaps defining usefulness would help.

    I’m struggling to divorce usefulness from desirability, but I’m thinking from a consumer-end point of view, and product-centric.
    From a design point-of-view, I think your flow is useful (boom tish) in refining and defining the core purpose of the project/item, but it’s pretty cold.

    Such a process creates the perfect answer to a fairly specific question, and if the role of the provider is simply to provide a response, then fine. But if we’re creating something to passively offer to users who must choose to engage it, I think you need to wrap all the pure functionality up in some spunk at some point.

    My car is a hand-me-down from my wife: it’s perfectly useful, but I didn’t choose it, so I don’t particularly like it. If I had my choice over, I wouldn’t choose it.

    So my point: yes, this will answer your pragmatic needs well, but as a consumer, as soon as I find the same functionality in something that engages my heart as well, I’ll discard yours for that. If you’re being pragmatic, you’ll be OK with that though.

    Last thing, some things are purely desirable/comfortable – undies, teddy bears – how do they fit?

  4. Sorry, there’s more going on with the car than simply the fact that I didn’t choose it outright.
    i didn’t choose it SO I wouldn’t again is not the full story!

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