What is Quality?

Posted by Tom LarsenFeb 26, 2020 Design, Making Choices, Marketing, Product Development 0 Comment

Many people at first glance, including me, might presume that there is an empirical measure for quality virtually all the time. We might think of a rating scale, or a success rate, or some other arbitrary measure that would be collectively understood and agreed upon to evaluate a quality standard. And would we ever be wrong!

Quality, it turns out, is measured person by person through meeting their expectation, not a standard. To an analytic person, that may be the number of stars on a review, or the on-time performance of an airline, or the number of shipments without errors. But, how do we agree on quality when it is in terms of quality meats, quality produce, or quality performance? How do we know what a 4 star online rating is, or an airline with amazing hospitality and only a 90% ontime performance. We don’t. If one person’s experience does not meet their expectation, whatever that may be, then the quality to that person is not the same as to the person who has the same experience with different expectations.

This means quality is rooted in the expectations of the person making the quality distinction. Think about that for a second amongst all the quality reports or online rating systems and the other “quality” claims that you see, hear, read or even make, for a second. Even an impartial standard is not going to be repeatable in the experience of everyone. Why is that?

My perspective is because quality is about a blend of the expectation and the experience. It’s not one or the other. It’s both. One person’s breath taking experience is another person’s terrifying near death experience. The high quality meat to one person’s palate is awful and to another sublime.

With this knowledge, we as influencers or raters in the crowd of online ratings are obliged to establish as early as possible a clarity about expectation so as to be able to as much as possible define quality from a specific point of view. We create the opportunity for what is delivered to match or exceed the expectation. Is the quality at McDonald’s good or bad? Those that love it, think it’s great. Are they the arbiters? Should we ask those who went once and hated it?

My approach to portraying quality is to do all I can to frame quality by the experience and the expectation. To the degree I effectively achieve that communication through text and imagery, I can establish a hope for the website visitor for their overall experience to meet an expectation. That standard is then supported at the website with subsequent proof in some way to begin to build trust with the visitor.

It may be unusual to hear a designer talk about expectation, experience and trust. To me, that’s what design means. If I can’t understand the expectation, how can I possibly design the right approach? It’s my expectation that bringing those concepts to the front of the conversation and therefore the collective understanding of what is to be accomplished creates something wonderful and results in the highest quality experience possible for website visitors all the time. But, I’m not the judge, everyone else is. What do you think?

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