Communications Theory in Product Design

As you all know, I love listening to podcasts and being creative. Listening to the myriad of podcasts that I do, I find concepts from one podcast often apply to the field discussed in one of the others. While listening to a podcast on trading card game design, the topic of communications theory and game design came up. I followed up by reading the related article by the podcast host, which sparked off an interesting thought process for me, around how communications theory helps to plug holes within product design. Here’s how I feel this applies.


In his article, Mark mentions how human beings crave comfort and the sense of the known. This is definitely true in game design especially. Having played Magic: The Gathering for the past 15 years, I can confirm that Magic has always felt like Magic, to me, despite it’s evolution and updates.

When designing a new product, it’s important that the user feels at home. If I’m designing a WooCommerce extension, I should adopt the interface provided by WordPress and WooCommerce, to ensure the product feels familiar to my users.


This is often the spark which keeps the user coming back. If the product is really simple to set up, for example, that’s a surprise. If there is a setting which affords the user an opportunity to shift how the product can be used, that’s great (for example, a setting to change one piece of text, even). Adding a feature which feels comfortable, yet is a surprise, can be the best kind of surprise (a feature the user never thought of, yet is extremely valuable to them).


Completion is easily the key factor here. If a product feels incomplete, the customer will feel hard done by and that they’ve been short-changed (even if your product is offered for free). While it’s not always possible to ensure completion right out the gate, it’s an important goal to strive for. Fortunately, with the continuous nature of the internet, it’s easier than ever to apply a continuous improvement approach to product design, to constantly strive for completion.

Tips and tricks

There are a few key mindset factors which can be applied to ensure a constant application of comfort, surprise and completion. Take it slow when architecting your product, be frugal with the number of settings you add to your product, be mindful of the setup time and on-boarding of your product and be aware of comfort, surprise and completion at all times.

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