Product Design Process: 7 Steps to Create a Successful Product
If you are creating a product, then you are likely focusing on the product design process. Naturally, a comprehensive guide that helps explain how to create a successful product can help.
DevTeam.Space has comprehensive product design experience. The following projects that we delivered illustrate that:
- Alibra: The DevTeam.Space team designed and developed Alibra, a mobile application designed for foreign language schools.
- Gimme Jimmy Cookies: A team from DevTeam.Space designed and developed an eCommerce website. The website sells cookies for birthday gifts, corporate gifts, fundraising, etc.
- SoBe Furniture: A DevTeam.Space team redesigned and rebuilt the SoBe Furniture website. SoBe Furniture is a local furniture store in South Florida.
Read on, as we explain how a design team designs a successful product.
A brief introduction to product design and the product design process
The term “Product Design” refers to a collection of activities. These are as follows:
- Identifying market opportunities or unearthing problems;
- Defining the opportunities/problems;
- Developing offerings/solutions to address the above-mentioned opportunities/problems;
- Validating the above-mentioned solutions with real users.
The product design process refers to the framework used by a product team to design a new product. This framework involves several steps, e.g.:
- Understanding the users’ needs;
- Defining the market opportunity, alternatively, defining the problem of an end-user;
- Coming up with ideas;
- Creating prototypes;
- Validation of the product ideas or assumptions.
Note: Product design or product design processes don’t concern digital products only. The implementation might differ, however, the key concepts hold true for all kinds of products.
How modern product design approaches use “Design Thinking”
Product managers and product designers use “Design Thinking” in modern product design exercises. The term “Design Thinking” refers to a method or framework. It focuses on creating practical solutions to problems.
This method utilizes human-centered approaches to innovation. As a framework, “Design Thinking” factors in the following aspects:
- The tools that product designers have;
- Integrating the needs of people;
- Various possibilities created by technology;
- What businesses need for success.
Product managers or product designers start with 3 questions:
- Which problems would they solve?
- Who faces these problems?
- What do the product designers intend to achieve?
“Design Thinking” involves the following design phases to solve problems:
You learn about the people that your product will serve. This learning process involves conducting user researches. Develop a deep understanding of the needs of your target users.
You define the business opportunity or problem in this phase. Create a point of view based on the analysis of users’ needs. Use the insights that you have gained during the preceding phase.
You need to brainstorm to come up with as many solutions as possible. Give freedom to your team members for idea generation. By the end of this phase, you should have a range of possible solutions.
Create a prototype that helps you to validate your assumptions and hypothesis. Product managers and product designers use the prototyping phase to check their progress. Prototyping helps them to get various new ideas.
Take your functional product to users. You might offer fewer features initially, however, create a functional product. Analyze the feedback from users.
Note: You might have several iterations of the phases like ideation, prototyping, and testing.
The steps involved in the product design process
Successful product designers take the following steps during the product design process:
1. Defining the product vision
Define the product vision. Engage experienced people with decision-making authorities at this stage. You and your team need to understand the context of the product. You should define the product vision and product strategy at this stage of the design process.
Identify stakeholders that have a stake in the success of the proposed product. These might include end-users, business leaders, IT leaders, and your team.
Why you need to define the product vision and strategy
To achieve success, you need to make the following clear:
- The purpose of the product: Clarify why you are building the product.
- The product vision: Clarify what should this product achieve. Define the user experience that it should deliver.
- The product strategy: Define the journey map of the product. Specify the most important steps to build and launch the product.
Your team can’t work effectively without this clarity.
Defining the value proposition: A key step in defining the product vision
You need to define the value proposition of your product. Answer the following questions:
- What does this product do?
- Who will find it useful?
- When and where will the intended users use the product?
Defining the success criteria: An important part of defining the product vision
Define how you measure the success of the proposed product. Answer the following questions:
- What kind of usability standards should the product meet?
- Which metrics are relevant?
- What are the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) that you should track?
Tools like user interviews can help you to define the success criteria.
Tips and traps while defining the product vision
Do the following while defining the product vision:
- Communicate the vision and strategy effectively: Every relevant stakeholder should have clarity on the vision and strategy of the product.
- Conduct an effective project kick-off meeting: Bring the key players including your team on the same page.
Avoid adding elements to the vision and strategy that don’t add value to end-users.
2. Researching the product ideas
Conduct detailed product research exercises. These help you to get detailed information for designing a product. Product research exercises involve user and market research activities.
Why should you conduct product research exercises?
You need to conduct product research exercises due to the following:
- The need for detailed information vis-à-vis high-level information: The product vision and product strategy provide you with high-level information. You need more information to plan a product development project. A thorough product research exercise provides this information.
- The need to make well-informed decisions: Plenty of decision-making activities take place during the design and development of a product. High-quality information forms the foundation of these decisions. You can such high-quality information by conducting product research exercises.
Conducting user research exercises: The key steps
You should conduct user interviews. This allows you to get useful information through a direct communication channel. Such direct interactions provide high-quality information since you get both objective answers and subjective clues.
Do the following:
- Schedule interviews with sufficient lead-time.
- Allocate sufficient time for user interviews.
- Conduct interviews in person when it’s possible. You get more behavioral data, which helps you with user journey mapping.
- Plan the questions for the interview.
- Utilize experienced people when conducting these interviews.
Conducting online surveys: What should you do?
Conducting online surveys can help you to get quantitative as well as qualitative data. Online surveys cost you less, however, you can’t get the direct interaction offered by user interviews. Keep the following in mind:
- Keep your surveys short.
- Ask open-ended questions instead of closed-ended questions.
Contextual inquiries: How they can help
You can also conduct contextual inquiries. These involve an observer minutely observing the end-users when you work on the relevant tasks. Observers ask a few open-ended questions to end-users too. Contextual inquiries help you with user journey mapping.
Conducting market research exercises
Conduct market research activities to understand how your competitors are responding to the same market opportunity or business problem. This will help you differentiate your product from those of the competitors.
Do the following:
- Consider both direct and indirect competitors for market research activities.
- Utilize modern technology solutions like cloud-based tools for market research.
3. Performing user analysis activities
You have collected information about what users want, how competitors address their needs, etc. Now, you need to understand why users want those features.
UX designers can then understand how the proposed product can best deliver value. You need to conduct a user analysis for this. This involves modeling the behavior of users and their typical environments.
Creating “user personas”: A key user analysis technique
By creating “user personas”, you can create realistic representations of the prominent segments of your target audience. These “user personas” are fictional characters. You can understand the goals of end-users in specific contexts by creating “user personas”.
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Keep the following in mind:
- Create “user personas” based on the data you have gathered. Avoid making assumptions.
- Avoid creating “user personas” based on a few people that you might know. Focus on the entire group of people instead. This helps you maintain objectivity.
- Expedite the creation of “user personas” by using templates available online.
Creating an “empathy map”: A visualization tool
Creating an “empathy map” can help you to conduct user analysis. This visualization tool helps your design team members communicate their understanding of the end-users. Product teams creating design solutions get an understanding of why end-users need some of the features.
Empathy maps show what users say, think, do, and feel. Keep the following in mind when creating them:
- Create empathy maps as posters.
- Help all design team members to see the empathy map prominently.
4. Ideation about the new product
Your product team should now ideate. The team should use the information it has gathered. Its brainstorming sessions should utilize the insights that it has extracted.
While generating ideas, you should also validate the assumptions related to design. Try to come up with as many creative ideas as you can. Use tools like sketching, storyboarding, etc.
User journey mapping: An approach to creating ideas
You can create the technique called “user journey mapping”. This involves visualizing the journey of end-users to achieve an objective. A user journey map is a series of steps, which denote the interaction of users with the product. We recommend you keep a user journey map as simple as possible. Complexities at this stage make the product design process lengthy.
Creating scenarios and storyboards: Another approach to create ideas
You had earlier created “user personas”. You can now create scenarios of users interacting with the proposed product. Scenarios describe a day in the life of users involving interactions with the product.
Creating storyboards serve the same purpose. However, storyboards are visual representations of users’ interactions with the product. They are like comic strips. Scenarios and storyboards help UX designers to understand what is important to end-users.
Note: You can also use approaches like “user stories” or “job stories”.
Plan the “Information Architecture” of the product
The term “Information Architecture” (IA) refers to the structure of websites, web apps, mobile apps, or other digital products. IA enables end-users to understand where they are on the website or app. It also enables end-users to understand where they can find the required information.
Do the following:
- Involve end-users while creating the IA.
- Use helpful techniques like “card sorting”.
Create ideas using techniques like sketching, creating wireframes, etc.
You can create ideas by using techniques like sketching and wireframing. Many design teams prefer sketching since it’s fast. Sketching helps design team members to visualize many design ideas. They can then weigh the pros and cons of these ideas. We recommend you use stencils when creating sketches of user interfaces.
Wireframes are visual guides to represent the structure of a web page or screen. You can describe their hierarchies and key elements. You can create wireframes by sketching, alternatively, you can use digital illustrations.
You came up with design ideas, however, will they work? You need to validate that. You can take forward the ideas that pass the validation. Discard ideas that don’t pass this validation stage, and go back to the drawing board.
We recommend product design teams follow the “Agile” methodology. This methodology prescribes iterative development. You develop a functional product even if it has limited features. Test the product in the market, and enhance it based on the market feedback.
Use the framework named “Design Sprint”. The word “Sprint” refers to iterations in the “Scrum” parlance. “Scrum” is a popular technique to execute Agile projects.
A “Design Sprint” involves product teams building prototypes. They ask a representative group of end-users to test a prototype. They enhance the product based on the feedback, alternatively, they come up with better ideas.
5. Designing the product
Your product team now designs your proposed product based on validated ideas and assumptions. This design phase involves the following steps:
- Reviews by the end-users;
- Refining the design based on feedback from end-users.
Note: You can use modern tools like Adobe XD for digital prototyping.
Document your design parameters and decisions. You need to hand your design over to the product development team, therefore, this documentation is important.
6. Product development, testing, and validation
You now enter the stage of product development. For digital products, this involves the following:
- Choosing the right software architecture pattern;
- Identifying the right technology stack based on the functional and non-functional requirements;
- Hiring a competent team;
- Managing tasks like coding, testing, and deployment.
Note: The term “testing” doesn’t refer only to functional testing, performance testing, security testing, integration testing, etc. From the product design standpoint, you need to include usability testing, “A/B testing”, etc.
7. Post-launch activities
Post-launch activities include various aspects. From the perspective of the software development team, these activities including post-deployment support, warranty support, etc. The software development team finally hands the system over to the maintenance team.
What do post-launch activities include from the project managers’ perspective? They include obtaining stakeholder approval, conducting lessons-learned exercises, etc.
For product designers, post-launch activities include the analysis of how well the product is working. They analyze the relevant metrics for this. They also study the feedback from end-users. The product team might enhance the product based on this analysis.
We reviewed the product design process and the associated steps. Delivering the right user experience to all the relevant stakeholders can be hard when developing software. Contact DevTeam.Space if you need help.
You might have come up with excellent product design using robust UX design practices. Now, you need to translate that design into an effective software system. You need to deliver functionality and non-functional requirements (NFRs). Software development processes help you to do that.
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