Why design matters so much to us at RCH

The silent victory of good design

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 more you look around you, the more you realise that anything stems from an idea that will influence the way an object will be perceived and used.

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 – Interactive design

Louis 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.Interoperabilitywith 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: our Atos software is a great example. Personal interaction is vital for any solution we design.

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.