Design Right

Below is an email I sent to all Benefitfocus associates

What happens when you get design right? I mean, really get it right. The whole thing: the product, the operating system, the platform, the developer network (apps), the physical design, the price and the partners. 

Answer: People will buy your product.

This seems simple, maybe deceptively simple. There are so many other factors to consider I suppose, like the economy, the competition, or the stock market. But the most important thing is your design and your execution of that design (engineering). It also helps to have a cool marketing and advertising department to get the word out.

Here is a recent example: Apple sold one million iPads in the first 28 days since they launched. Is that fast? Sure is. It took 74 days to sell one million iPhones.

I have contended for a while that the ultimate “magic” of Apple is OS X and their ability to build all of their products on that platform. Without OS X you don’t have the MacBooks and iMacs, or at least they are not the killer technology product of the decade. Without the MacBooks and iMacs, you don’t get the iPod and thus no iTunes. Without the iPod and iTunes store concept, you don’t get the iPhone and ultimately the App Store. And without the iPhone and App Store, you don’t get one million iPads in 28 days. All of this feeds itself, it builds momentum and it draws developers in. It then expands the utility of the platform for consumers.

For me, the best line of the last decade from Apple was during the launch of the iPhone when Jobs said “we stuffed OS X into this phone.” That was THE big design decision. Probably not an easy one and it was probably pretty hard to do.


Design Right


Good design is not necessarily easy design. Good design is not necessarily easy to implement. But good design is long lasting; it endures. I believe Benefitfocus possesses the characteristics of good design. I believe we are on our way toward transforming healthcare and benefits in a similar way that Apple has transformed consumer and mobile technology. It all starts with the operating system and the company’s determination to keep it central to everything it builds, which in our case is the Benefitfocus Platform.

This takes time. Apple is over 30 years old. Apple was founded in the 1970’s, and the Mac was not even their first computer. The first Mac Operating System was designed in 1980 and released in 1984. It took Microsoft 10 years to copy that user interface and introduce Windows 95. Technology feels like a short race. A race measured in months and maybe two or three years. But really it is a long race, one measured in decades. The tough part is keeping a business going while you solve the really big problems. This is that tension of selling now and delivering now while the technology continues to emerge. All of the great companies have had to deal with that same tension. It helps you focus and refocus. It keeps you on track. It is healthy.

Keep all this in mind as you continue your own journey of design and your execution. You can see good design and you can learn how powerful it is in the long run.