Read More
View Website

We use cookies to make sure you have the best experience on our website. Fear not, we don’t sell your data to third parties.


What do peas and product design have in common?

by Edwina Olver

5 min read

Since recently becoming a mother, I have been launched into the world of bedtime stories and fairy tales.

A familiar classic by Hans Christian Anderson called the ‘Princess and the Pea’ has been a particular favourite.

For those unfamiliar, the story goes along the lines of this: there once was a prince who travelled the world searching for a real princess, but he fell short and returned home. A storm came along and a woman claiming to be a princess stumbled upon his castle seeking shelter.

The prince’s mother (aka the queen), eager to test the veracity of the princess’s claim, decides to place a pea under her mattress and layers a bunch of other mattresses on top. The princess has a shitty night’s sleep due to there being a ‘rock’ under her back, therefore confirming she is indeed a princess (as princesses are fragile creatures…*rolls eyes *)

So what has this got to do with product design?

The moral of the story here is that small, even minuscule things can have a large impact. Take the context of digital transformation in business. Transformation programs using waterfall methodologies can appear vast, expansive and revolutionary with multiple horizons designed to offer much needed service and product delivery change. But many a time I have come across situations where trying to tackle too many changes to the customer experience at once can have a stifling effect. Why? Because it’s hard to isolate the impact when we have pushed too many levers.

The very principle of product design is to design, test and learn¹. We pivot incrementally (just like a netballer does gracefully on a court) and we do it again, and again, and again. The smaller the tweak, the easier to measure, and then the next step along the path becomes glaringly obvious.

Don’t underestimate:

  • The impact the placement of a CTA button on a landing page has on whether users can find the start of their application form.
  • Or the impact of a website’s typography on content accessibility, legibility and user comprehension².
  • Or the colour of a button and its effect on overall page conversion³.
  • Or the usability of a date selector in general. (Why do we still see date picker starting fields show up as ‘1921’ forcing the user to scroll decades forward in search of their actual date of birth?)4

While these product design features appear to be inconsequential, they can be the deciding factor causing your customer to bounce off your website and over to your competitor, or to tear their hair out and dislike you…a lot.

In short, don’t underestimate the impact of a pea5 under your mattress, as it may lead to you marrying a prince and living happily ever after. Or in the case of product design, gracefully pivoting like a netballer who knows exactly where she is going because she was able to isolate the impact of her changes made in her design sprint and improve the customer experience.

For more info, check out the Lean StartUp methodology by Eric Ries.
2 The decision between picking Helvetica or Comic Sans typographies can have grave consequences on the user experience. For more info, read The Bureau of Internet Accessibility’s Best Fonts To Use for Website Accessibility
3 Colour contrast matters, not just for those with colour vision impairment, it affects everyone. Thank goodness for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Read more at Vision Australia
4 Enjoy this terrible date picker experience here
5 Ironically when I was a little girl, I referred to peas as little balls of misery, so does that make me a princess?

Have a question for Edwina?

Get in touch
Get in touch

Edwina Olver

→ Edwina is an experienced insights and design leader who is passionately curious about leveraging customer understanding and technology to build a better world. Her career spans over 10 years in consulting and corporate roles, including the Product Design team at WorkSafe Victoria, insights at Asahi Beverages and a number of market and social research agencies where she was able to develop an expert knowledge in quantitative, qualitative, CX, agile and human-centred design methodologies.Over her career, Edwina has worked for clients in FMCG, telco, automotive, higher education and government industries.

Read Edwina
Read Edwina