By now we all know that when building a website or an application UI/UX design is something that not only can’t be trifled with but should accompany the process from early on. But when referring to building a digital product more often product design is being mentioned rather than UI/UX. Let’s shed some light on what the product design process is if there’s some fundamental difference between UI/UX design and product design and what goes into digital product design process.
It is a misconception to consider that product design only deals with the ‘outside’ or the looks of the product. Contrary, it is involved in every step of the way, starting from the initial idea and conceptualization, to develop and launch the product. It helps to identify the problem users face and is one of the key elements of finding the solution. How? By making use of its best practices: experience design, design thinking, user research, UI design, and prototyping.
And is there any at all? Spoiler alert, there is.
The work of UI/UX designers typically ends once the final version of a design is signed, sealed, and delivered to their clients. And what does a product designer do? More than just moving pixels. They work in close cooperation with both marketing and development, and management and serve as a linking element between them. From iteration to iteration until the product reaches its final, improved version that is ready to be shipped into the wide world.
While everything is more or less clear with what is product design, there’s no single correct answer about product design process. It may slightly vary from company to company but it usually includes the following steps:
One of the reasons why there’s no unified answer as to how the product design process looks, is because, as trite as it sounds, all projects are different. And thus the process may vary or depend on the unique requirements of your particular case. But as diverse as they are, the key components are usually the same. Their combination, however, may vary. Now let’s look more closely at the main elements of product design:
It all starts with research. You want your product to fill the void in your customers’ needs, to be helpful to them. That’s why you need to start by getting the general vision of what you want to build and what is the problem that you are trying to solve and whether your idea has a chance of succeeding.
During this stage, you want to explore the market and value proposition. How unique your idea is or what is your point of difference. And the answer to all your questions is market research. In the series of researches, product designers try to find out not only who your users are but also answers to some eye-opening questions, like what are their main problems and pain points, which of these are most/least important, and finally, who they can help. Another side of the research is finding out what the business aka stakeholders want and what is their business model.
After all the business requirements are gathered, time to move on to the next stage.
As you reach this stage, the digital product that you are building is getting its shape. You know what is that you want to accomplish and how your product can be useful to the world. Now it’s time to build something tangible and test your idea through prototyping.
Prototyping lets you test your idea before you invest time and resources into building the final version. The scale of how elaborate the prototype is starts with something as simple as a sketch and can reach prototypes that resemble the final version of the interface. The goal of this stage is to test the idea, see how it functions and behaves, introduce some improvements and move on to building the final version. The range of prototypes is pretty wide. Your choice will greatly depend on the following factors: your goals, how complete is the design, tools used, and available resources. Based on that you can choose from:
Type of prototypes:
The typical deliverables of this stage include:
Now that you have a prototype on your hands, it is ready for user testing and idea validation. By performing usability testing you find out if your product actually works, whether it is effective and if people like it or not.
At this stage, you can get insights from your customers on what needs to be improved or whether it needs any changes at all. Testing with real users is an important phase of the whole product design process and development and one that should not be omitted for it helps you to create a great user experience and makes your product a better version of itself.
And finally, the most coveted stage — the launch. Once the prototypes are validated time to move on to building the final cut. At this stage designers work in close cooperation with developers and marketing team to build and launch the product.
But design doesn’t really end here, if we are being honest. Product design is an ongoing process. And as your product is sent into the real world, designers gather feedback from users, perform A/B testing all in an effort to understand how people interact with the product and how to make it even better.
Great, logical experience design is not that common. Very often businesses end up with websites, applications, or products that are designed for executives but not really with their end-users in mind. To get your underperforming product back on track, you need UX audit.
As we’ve established digital product design is an ongoing process that doesn’t stop with a launch. And sometimes it happens so that your results are not as good as you’d expect or maybe even a lot worse. UX audit can help you get to the bottom of the problem and improve the situation. When performed right, it can lower the cost of customer acquisition, drive customer loyalty, as well as reduce development time, grow revenue, and overall get a fresh perspective on your product.
The standard procedure of UX audit includes Expert Review and Heuristic Evaluation. The first assesses design not only from the standpoint of ‘heuristics’ but also how it checks against other usability guidelines and principles (i.e. cognitive psychology, human-computer interaction). While the latter involves uncovering usability problems of user interface and includes multiple evaluators that conduct an examination to judge if the interface complies with the ‘heuristics’ (usability principles). A set of evaluators rather than a single person is a better approach as it will help to discover different problems that one person won’t be able to deliver. Followed by usability improvement — applying the list of suggestions to achieve better business results.
Aesthetically pleasing is great but when you want to build something that really resonates with people. First and foremost, helps them and maybe even changes their lives for the better. Indeed, you are going to need more than pretty visual design. Digital product design is quite a long process and it doesn’t end with shipping the final version of your digital product. But if performed correctly, it can give you the answers you need to build a market success.
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