Product Design meets Sufism

I am an ardent admirer/follower of Sufi music and hence very obviously, I admire Ustaad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan too. Rather say, I adulate him. Professionally, I am an interaction designer, helping startups design their product idea.

If one delves into the real meaning of Sufism, the essence of it is real simple. Let me attempt to put it this way –

Every act of ours has two aspects to it — external and internal. External is to do with the way we demonstrate/do the act (its portrayal to the world) and internal, which is to do with the intent with which we do the act. When both these aspects are pure and know their true purpose, good things happen.

For example, act of praying. External element is to do with the folding/raising of hands etc, or even closing your eyes to portray your act of praying. Internal aspect is the intent — which could be real or not-so-real (tending towards a showoff). It could be to appealing almighty for some help, or it could be just in his praise. It could vary.

Now, keeping this is mind — lets try thinking about Product design. To help our case, lets frame a term called — Intent of product (IoP). IoP is not usability, functionality, reliability or delight. Its somewhere in between, or rather a manifestation of all these. More sublime possibly.

Straight to an example, Lets talk about its IoP. There are multiple examples to show its IoP to be one that is to — Help its users find/book accommodations easily, and not show off its product through fancy interactions and design. One great example is how it detects Host preference .
But lets take a very small example, that illustrates it. On the home page, notice the Help drop down on hover –


With a very well thought out search bar in that drop down, and suggested articles, its trying to use good design to aid the user in getting that help instantly. Externally, its doing the act of helping the user get information.
Its intent is very aligned, and really wants the user to get that information, almost instantly — so that he/she feels comfortable, and confident.

Talking about Medium itself. As I am writing this article, and when I wanted to put a link just above — it was an amazing experience for me. Even for a second, I did not look around for hints — and enjoyed the effortlessness. Again, a supreme example of an IoP to help its users put that URL without managing any additional visual overload or effort & giving context to the word. External act is as obvious — to link a word to an URL.


Some other examples —, an e-commerce major in the Indian market. Take a look at the home page snapshot –


What is its IoT? Is there one specific one? To me, it comes across as multiple: Showcase its products/brands, shout about exclusive offers and possibly to help user find the intended product. Again, I am not talking about any issues in usability, functionality etc — its a discussion on intent. According to what I like to believe, IoP is and should be one. In everything that the product does, its gets validated at some level.

IoP should be discussed and arrived at when forming the product idea. It need not always be generic, as in, for example, to aid the user. It could be generic at an epic level, but then at component level, it could be something like,
IoP is to aid the user <to do this> e.g. For a Help Button in Navigation Bar — IoC (Intent of Component) is to aid the user in finding information instantly. IoC being a child of IoP but having its identity.

Various examples wrt IoP comes to mind. For some e-commerce product, it could be to help users get information around most discounts. For a gaming product, it could be make user feel in control OR could be to wow the user with its superb graphics. For an Uber it could be, find cab and help user get riding as soon as possible and so on.

IoP is different from an user story. User story for the help component might read — “As an user, when I click Help Tab, take me to Help page, so that I can get the required aid”. Read this vs what IoC says, “As an user, when I click Help Tab — aid me to get information instantly”.

This is just a germinating thought about this interesting inference. The intent is to help ourselves design a product that knows what its true purpose is, and then the rest just becomes the detail.

Let me know your thoughts.


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