Why can I sign up on products in seconds, but signing up for a passport or applying for an e-visa can take hours?
Why are there separate platforms for booking trains and government buses, ordering gas cylinders, and filing our taxes?
We are living in a world where design, not features, can determine which competitor wins the largest market share. (Think Khatabook vs. OkCredit.) Companies are charging a premium for good design. (Case in point — Superhuman.) And markets are being redefined just by putting great design at the heart of product development. (Apple. Enough said.)
However, great design is still a distant dream in today's citizen-focussed products. Most government or public-sector software are feature-loaded tools that are just painful to use.
When we asked why, the most common thing we heard was, "We didn't design our product. We just built it."
High-impact organisations mostly focus on getting their feature sets right, which means they struggle to create better experience for high-impact products. But that's where many high-impact organisations made an unconscious design choice. Ignoring design is an unconscious choice to ignore the user.
While many customer-focused teams have come to understand the importance of design, most citizen-centric organisations are yet to make user-centric product design a norm. That's what we at Parallel are setting out to solve.
Mission: Helping high-impact organisations create better products
We want to help create more human-friendly products for high-impact organisations. We are looking to work with the governments, philanthropies, nonprofits, and companies that are building products for the next billion and the last million.
Improving these products will shape how technology can make people's lives easier. Better designed experiences won't only improve downloads or ratings, but rather build trust and lasting relationships with these products — and in turn, save the time and money that goes to waste when products are built without thinking through design.
No, design isn't about making your app "pretty".
Design is not just about prettifying your app with better colors, alignments and illustrations. Sure, that's pleasing. But good product design is much nuanced than that.
Will this app make sense to an 18 year old, 35 year old, and a 60 year old?
Will a Marathi, Punjabi, and Hindi-bhashi understand the content?
Will both someone who grew up online and someone who just started using the internet last week know what to do?
Will users actually be able to accomplish what they need to do, or will they get lost?
Design starts much before you write the first line of code — it starts when you pen down the first sentence of what you want to build and who you want to build it for. We want to help organisations fix this — in their applications, in their teams, and in their culture.
We won't do it in months or years, but days.
We use the time-boxed, time-tested, low-bias, high-value process of Design Sprints to deliver value in days. Yes, that's possible. We have done it, time and again.
- We transformed NITI Aayog's vision document for NDAP (National Data and Analytics Platform) into validated designs in just 4 weeks.
- We helped Swasth implement India's first account aggregator for healthcare.
- We redesigned Digilocker, a digital government document repository used by over 35 million people, in just 10 days.
Design shouldn't be a luxury, but an essential part of any team or product.
While we'll start with designing products, our job doesn't end there. We want to create a community of designers focused on impact and product creators focused on user needs.
We're looking for people who believe in making human-friendly designs a reality, who like to put the users' need before their own, and who will go that extra mile to deliver experiences that will matter to their users. Whether you are a designer on our team or a team who believes in design, we're here to help you identify design challenges and make more user-centric products in future.
We'll be creating design systems for citizen-centric systems to make people's lives easier. And, more importantly, we'll open our knowledge to the world, so more and more individuals can join us in this mission.
What does this mean for Parallel?
Even after designing 40+ products and 5 years of constantly innovating, we're just getting started. It's still Day 0 at Parallel.
We're going all in to bring delightful experiences to high-impact products — be it from central or state governments, banks, startups, nonprofits or any other organisation solving critical problems.
The journey won't be easy — it's easy to let bad design slip in, and it's hard to convince people about the tangible value that design can create. But nothing will happen unless we try. And, well, who said that change was easy?
This blog's header image is from the U.S. Navy's website.