Some apps you use more, others less. So what does it depend on? As a user, you expect ease of use and functionalities that will make your life easier. Things get tricky when you are the one who is responsible for a digital product. And here comes the importance of the product design process.
It turns out that meeting customers' expectations is not as easy as it may seem. It requires thorough research and preparation, the so-called product design process.
The success of a product depends on it. The problem is that even UX designers don’t have a clear guide for this process. Depending on the project or approach that a company takes, the product design process may vary.
It’s best to entrust the process to professionals since there is no one golden rule, yet there are so many factors involved.
However, it’s essential to understand it before you begin fully. In a nutshell, we want to show you what the product design process looks like in practice. What are its main elements, and which tools might be helpful during its development?
Let’s learn everything you need to know about the product design process.
What is the product design process?
The product design process can be described as the whole creation of a digital product from strategy, through conceptual work, to implementation. It’s the process of planning both the product’s visual attractiveness and its user flow.
The product design process doesn’t apply only to UX/UI design. It gives you a big picture of the whole project because it considers the business perspective and its goals. It’s a combination of three elements – management, engineering, and graphics.
The final result always depends on mutual work combining various skills – graphic design, UX/UI design, research, business analysis, development, and marketing or testing, just to name a few.
Though it is complex, it’s worth the effort. Through the product design process, you can tailor the product to meet the customers' needs and boost their satisfaction.
And that’s just the beginning of its advantages.
What are the goals of the product design process?
In many cases, the values that are important to customers do not align with business expectations, or it turns out that developers do not understand the real needs of their users.
So, the main goal of the product design process is to find the balance between user needs and business value.
In this way, you gain a broader perspective to understand all stakeholders better and develop a product that has excellent functionality, an attractive design and is profitable.
The ideal product design process helps you to:
- understand customers' needs,
- identify a market opportunity,
- increase competitiveness,
- achieve the desired product quality,
- generate profit in the long run,
- reduce costs.
It should serve as a guidance system for the entire business, like a map that helps determine the best course of action.
How does the product design process work in practice?
Once you have a grasp of the theory, it’s time to put it into practice.
It would be great if every product design process looked the same. Unfortunately, that isn’t possible. As we said before, even experts can’t predict the exact course of the process – it simply provides a roadmap for the steps ahead, along with tips for skipping or extending them. There are many conditional variables in the process, and, unlike in software development (writing code), the knowledge of the decision-maker and the results of interviews or research are always essential aspects.
Many factors go into the process – the budget, the UX project scope, or even the time frame and size of the business, just to name a few.
Even so, we will share with you our sample product design process framework. It should help you imagine how one might appear in your business.
Let’s look at the most critical steps, standard design methods, and a few tools that can help you streamline the whole process.
Before you start: product business analysis?
Even being the best at something doesn’t guarantee market share. If you want to turn your idea into huge profits, you need a detailed plan. That’s where product business analysis comes into play.
A product business analysis begins guides and closes the design process. It helps you determine the costs involved and forecast the profits you might make from the product. It combines the forces of a business analyst and UX designer.
The aim of business analysis is to clarify the product’s technical requirements, decrease development costs, and identify the target audience and their needs. It’s also essential after the product’s implementation for testing, identifying problems, and making improvements.
Product design process elements and who’s involved there
We will now explain the stages of the process and related questions.
Is your solution a product-market fit? The key to a successful product is understanding the people involved in the design process and all other aspects of the project – its goals and different perspectives. That’s why the biggest role of designers is to identify users' needs and align them with the business goals.
You must have a clear vision of your product – an outline of its appearance and the problems it will solve. This is also the time to communicate your expectations, what precisely you want for your business, and how long the whole design process should take.
Once you’ve clarified these issues, you need to transfer your vision into the digital space. At this stage, the UX designers create a prototype for your product and, in collaboration with the developers and designers, turn your vision into a reality.
Product / Function
What features will your product offer? It is crucial to be extremely specific about your budget, as it directly impacts the complexity of your product.
Find out which functions are the most important and which you should focus on. Remember that people love easy solutions. The easier the product is to use, the more likely it is to be a success. Look at the most popular tools – they are super simple to use.
But you don’t have to worry – UX designers are the people who will make sure that your users fully understand your product.
Users / Personas
Users are the key elements of the product design process. That is why you should make sure you carry out thorough research before you even start thinking about designing the product.
Conduct surveys and interviews to get to know your target audience. As part of your user research, you also need to understand who you’re building the product for. It will be helpful to create user personas to help put yourself in your users' shoes and start to look at the product from their perspective.
Users are often provided and presented by the decision-makers, but they do not originate from them. Personas, on the other hand, are the result of several steps, research, and studies designed to narrow down the perfect target group.
When carrying out competitive research, you should look mostly at three things – product offering, the user experience, and visual design. Take inspiration from your competitors and analyze what their good and bad sides are.
Researching the competition will also help you understand their customers' needs better – look at what their users say about your competitors’ solutions. Maybe there is a gap in the market that no other company has filled, or maybe their users complain about certain elements. Then, ensure that you don’t repeat the same mistakes but instead find your unique selling proposition (USP).
You have to always take into account the risks that are involved in any project. This way, you will be able to understand the market better, and as a result, be aware of the issues that might arise during product development.
What are the risks involved with creating a particular product? The most common ones are missing cost or quality targets, overrunning the schedule, creating a product that will not be profitable or just one that will not attract users.
Managers and analysts must constantly monitor and analyze the project to mitigate the risks that might occur.
Product design methodologies
There are different types of frameworks that companies use to design products. Even though each of them is different, they all contribute to validating ideas, solving challenges, and aligning the product vision with the goals and objectives. When it comes to product design, what are the most common methodologies?
Every technique has its own set of benefits and drawbacks based on your own preferences, experience, and circumstances.
Using this approach, you can launch new products quickly and efficiently. It’s performed in a collaborative environment and with cross-functional and self-organized teams. This method focuses more on „doing” than on paperwork, which speeds up the decision-making process significantly.
The agile method of product development divides the process into multiple small iterations; at the end of each, you will receive the output from the designers. Delivering a small feature after each iteration allows you to give feedback and improve your product accordingly.
As a result, you’re involved in the entire process and its progress is transparent for you. What’s more, you can react quickly to all problems and make necessary changes with fewer consequences to the budget.
“A design sprint is a five-day process for answering critical business questions through design, prototyping, and testing ideas with the customers”.
This method was used internally at Google for various products before becoming an integral part of Google Ventures. The initial development process consists of five phases: understand, diverge, decide, prototype, and validate. As a result, the first outcome is given in about three to four days, proving the process to be intensive and results-orientated.
A team consisting of a small number of designers, developers, marketers, and customers develops the project and looks for the best solutions to deliver a product that best meets the expectations of future users and customers.
What are its main advantages? Using this fast-forward approach, you can see how your finished product will look in advance before you make any costly commitments. You will learn if an idea is worth pursuing and, what’s best, you can cut out endless debates and compress months of work into a single week.
Product Canvas combines Agile methodologies with UX principles. It helps build products that have a great user experience while focusing on future development. The purpose of Product Canvas is to validate the product, not to determine whether or not it should be developed.
It’s more of a tool than a methodology – it conveys what your product is and how it’s positioned strategically. It contains various UX artifacts – user stories with personas, scenarios, storyboards, or design sketches.
To sum up
Having learned a lot about the product design process, let’s summarize all of the most critical points:
- Product design is a long-term and multi-stage process that involves many people.
- The presence of each stage and specialist is necessary to create the best possible product.
- The time and effort invested in the design process will pay off in the quality of the finished product.
- There are several tools and methods that allow you to carry out the product design process.
If you have any further questions or need help with product design, feel free to reach out to us and we’ll discuss how we can help. We are here to assist you.