Design for All Helps BT to Number One Phone in UK

Design for All Helps BT to Number One Phone in UK

When BT set out to relaunch its successful range of Freestyle handsets they wanted to continue to create a phone that would appeal to a large market, and be usable by those with physical impairments. This approach has enabled the new Freestyle 700 range to become one of the best selling products in the market.

BT hired UK design consultancy TheAlloy to design the new FreeStyle 700 range of DECT telephones and answering machines. The range is primarily aimed at elderly users and those with physical impairments, but by applying true inclusive design principles it appeals to all. The brief was as simple as the phone should be: create a phone that is easy to operate, clear to see and comfortable to use.

TheAlloy creates better user experiences through design. It interviews customers and uses empathic tools and techniques to understand the needs of customers, a process it calls Experience Mapping. Adopting such an approach to design and manufacture takes more time and effort, but TheAlloy and BT believed this was necessary to create a product that would stand out in a crowded market place.

The resulting design makes the phones easier to handle and use; with buttons that prevent misdialling, clear graphics, and volume and frequency of ringtones adjusted to ensure calls are not missed. Together these create a handset which enables, rather than discriminates against, all customers.

Within two years of launch in 2008, competing with some 500 other products in the market, the BT Freestyle 700 family of phones had secured a 6% market share, and has delivered more than 30 times return on design investment since launch.

TheAlloy's work on the BT Freestyle 700 family has now been honoured with a prestigious Design Business Association (DBA) Design Effectiveness Award for best product of the year. The DBA champions the role of effective design in the creation of business growth, and recognises the integral role that design plays in commercial success through these awards.

"To win a Design Effectiveness Awards for the BT Freestyle 700 phones is especially gratifying," said Gus Desbarats, Chairman of TheAlloy. "It demonstrates how good, simple, well thought out design breaks through barriers and benefits all."

The Freestyle 750 Twin was also awarded Which? Best Buy 2009 and a four star rating from Able Magazine.