The Silent Victory of Good Design in the POS Market
Everything is designed. Take a moment to really think about what that means. Have a look around you at the objects in the room. There are things that you instantly recognise as ‘designed’; rigorously and over the course of many years. Cars are an obvious example. Elegant, ergonomic, wildly expensive furniture is another. But what about your pencil tidy? The radiator in the corner? Objects so bland that it’s difficult to believe anybody ever gave them any thought at all.
The more you think about, the more interesting the thought becomes. That awful pattern on bus seats? Someone designed that. The iconic but rather odd 80s paper drinking cups that have featured at every public event ever? Somebody thought about that, sketched it out, submitted it to a board and they all signed off on it. The more you look around you, the more you realize that all the things you see and use have deliberate intention behind them. Sometimes that deliberate intention is inspired, sometimes misguided, sometimes undertaken by professionals, sometimes by amateurs.
Design can imbue things with desire, durability and delight. That’s why design matters so much to us at RCH. Every product in our range is a product of thought, research, consideration, creativity, knowledge and skill. But what constitutes good design? There are endless debates within the literature about the core principles that apply, but these are the ones that guide our thinking.
Form doesn’t follow function – form and function are one
Louis Henry Sullivan – a famous architect in the turn of the 20th century – is attributed with the original phrase ‘form follows function’, but it was his mentee Frank Lloyd Write who pushed to change the mantra to ‘form and function are one’. But establishing what the function of a product is, can actually be trickier than you think.
After all, what function do RCH’s products serve? You’ll be surprised to hear that it isn’t to ‘create POS systems that handle the cash and card transactions of business’. It may seem like that’s the purpose of the product, but in reality that’s just a smaller part of a much wider function. The true function of the product is in fact to facilitate the strategic business goals of the client – of which effective transaction management is just one component. Thinking in the widest possible way about the potential for product benefit is key to ensuring that form and function truly fit together.
For instance, the use of touchscreens in our products is not just guided by the elegant, streamlined appearance they give. Instead, a major motivation is that our products are used in food-related environments, or by the public, where sticky hands and rigorous hygiene requirements mean that ‘wipeability’ is a key concern. But we didn’t integrate touchscreen technology until we knew that it could meet the fast-paced, error free needs of our clients. We push further and invest more heavily in our R&D to make sure that when a new technology is integrated, it serves to benefit both form and function.
Know your users better than they know themselves
Part of achieving the goal above- regarding form and function – stems from knowing inside-out what your users need from your product, and how they are going to use it. There’s an important concept in design called ‘reducing cognitive load’. In other words, you should never ask your users to have to think.
That means they shouldn’t hunt for buttons, or have to figure out what labels or instructions mean. Menus should follow the most intuitive flow, and put frequently used operations front and centre to minimize the length of time that navigation takes. Interoperability with other systems should be easy and products should be compatible with the major systems used within the industry, the user shouldn’t need any technological know-how to make things work properly. We ensure every one of these elements.
Our close relationship with clients is what facilitates this ability to predict the needs of users; giving them what they need before they’ve even realized they need it. It can seem like something of a mind-reading trick, but the real trick comes in tracking user behaviours, analyzing them and working carefully to integrate instinctual and unconscious user behavior patterns right into the fabric of our products. We achieve this by maintaining a person connection with the people who use our systems.
Design flexibility and future-proofing into everything you do
This principle is a controversial one, because it’s well recognized that whilst good design calls for future-proofing a product, good business favours built-in obsolescence. Companies frequently abuse this principle so that they can bring a new product to market without really having to innovate at all. People have come to accept – and even expect – that their products will eventually fail or fall behind developing technological standards.
We disagree with this approach. We constantly strive to imbue our products with a longevity that justifies the initial investment. This isn’t necessarily done by ‘predicting the future’, but instead by maintaining as much flexibility in the product as possible. By using Android operating systems, users can integrate other apps and web-services, and the software can be constantly updated as functionality improvements.
Of course, it’s not just changing technology that has the potential to outdate a system, the changing needs of a business may often mean that they have to discard a system that no longer meets their new operational context. We always seek to grow with our clients, their successes are our success. As a result, our systems are designed to be modular, with optional extras and accessories, so that when the needs of the client grow and change, they can augment their POS infrastructure rather than having to start again from the beginning.
Good design doesn’t cost anything…
Really, a good idea doesn’t cost anything. Of course there is an initial investment in the study and training which underpins the ability to design, but the return on investment becomes exponential with each new idea. But market economic mean that in reality, whilst a good idea doesn’t really cost much more, it can often command a significant premium that goes well beyond the essential components of the product.
RCH operates a little differently. We were born 50 years ago, a small family company – and whilst we have achieved global reach now, we still maintain our family principles. We want our products to be accessible to everybody – from family-run trattorias to multinational fast-food outlets. We provide exceptional design at incredible levels of value – because a good idea doesn’t cost anything.
For many, cash desks and POS systems often constitute those kind of ‘background’ items in life that don’t always receive much consideration, but once upon a time a phone was considered to be just another part of the living room furniture, and look where they stand now. Good design is fundamental to growth. At RCH we recognise that close relationships with clients, creative approaches to design and serious investment in technology research have the potential to raise a ‘background’ item to the point that it becomes integral to operations.
Bad design isn’t just an eyesore, it’s a headache. Poor functionality, poor understanding of client needs and a failure to observe usage patterns – these all slow down the process and often cause more problems than they solve. On the other hand, good design is – sadly – often invisible. When things just work, when the product is invisibly elegant, when the interface is intuitive and second nature – people don’t necessarily notice, but their lives become immeasurably easier.
It’s a silent victory, but it’s one we strive for in our designs every day.