Design is one of the essential features of great products. A good design will create a positive impression of a brand to its customers, boost brand awareness, and give them an edge over competitors.
The importance of good design cannot be over-emphasized. Beyond the product having an excellent visual appearance, a good design considers the functionality, the product's ease of use, and the business aims of the product. It takes a whole lot to design an excellent product.
What is product design?
The first thing you notice about a product is its aesthetic appeal. So, it is easy to believe that designing a product is about making it look good.
However, the term product design goes beyond designing the appearance of products. Product design is the process designers use to align business objectives with user needs to create meaningful and successful products.
Product designers consider the user experience in designing solutions for users. They blend the solutions for users and the market desirability of products to help businesses build sustainable products. Thus, to create a product that lasts long in the market, product designers will consider the market acceptability of the product amidst other factors.
Who is a product designer?
A product designer supervises the design process of a product from start to finish. Product designers create empathy and journey maps for products to guide design teams during the process of designing products. A product designer's job is to keep the organization competitive in product desirability.
Thus, a product designer identifies a problem and develops a strategy to solve that problem. They use in-depth industry knowledge to predict the effects of design decisions and keep teams and organizations focused on the big picture and bottom line, especially in the mid-to-long term.
As a result, they can help maximize and sustain gains while avoiding or minimizing the risky consequences of implementing designs during the design process.
The product design process
Professionals in the product design field follow various methods when it comes to the product design process. This is because the product design process depends on several factors such as the project's purpose, the size of the company, the project's budget, the deadline, etc.
However, there are general considerations and steps to follow in an ideal situation. The design process must combine user needs with business requirements. This is important because the success of a product design rests on the ability to meet user needs and achieve business goals.
Steps of the product design process
1. Brainstorming. The product design process starts with brainstorming the kind of product to create. A product designer must be able to engage in critical thinking and come up with innovations or solutions for a problem. Hence, the creativity of a product designer is borne out of brainstorming.
Brainstorming is divided into three phases:
Definition of the problem. You must be clear about the problem you are trying to solve. The essence of product design is to create solutions. Perfect knowledge of the problem you are trying to solve streamlines your thinking to the kind of solutions you can create.
Idea creation. This stage is the most creative part of product design. At this stage, all ideas are welcomed, no matter how weird they may be. This phase aims to get as many ideas as possible. So, there should be no criticism during this session, and team members can combine ideas.
Selection. This is the phase of selecting the best ideas. The best ideas consider the users' pain points and are feasible for execution. Criticisms should be allowed here to allow for the logical selection of ideas.
2. Product definition. The results from the brainstorming session can serve as a guide for defining the product. To create this guide, you need to highlight the ideas that align with the business objectives of the design.
3. User research. User research is a process UX designers adopt to understand user behaviors, pain points, needs, and motivations through observation techniques.
User research covers a wide range of methods. Some methods are user interviews, card sorting, usability testing, surveys, field research, etc.
All these methods have one goal: to understand the user and put their best interest at heart. User research defines the scope of a product. It gives meaning and focuses on the product design process.
4. Creating user personas. A user persona is a fictional but realistic representation of your user.
You can create personas from the results of your user research. Creating personas is an essential aspect of product design. Personas help you stay conscious of the user's needs throughout the design process.
Personas can help identify potential bottlenecks in a product. The design team can start forgetting salient points about the user; personas give you the reminder you need about users.
Personas focus on the user. A good persona will make the product design process more accessible.
5. Creating user and customer journey maps. The customer journey of a product details the steps and processes that a customer will encounter throughout the design process. Customer journeys take into account online and offline aspects of a user's flow, giving them a complete picture of the process.
The customer journey diagram generates a large table as an output. The table's columns represent the various phases or steps a customer goes through. Although each project is different, most customer journeys have three phases: before, during, and after using our product.
In contrast to customer journeys, user journeys focus on a smaller portion of the journey. For example, they are solely concerned with what occurs within the application, for instance, during the registration process.
6. Sketching. Sketches are essential for any large project with a significant budget. You must coordinate the direction of the user research with the client before time is invested in finding solutions. Sketches allow you to tailor this direction to the central concept, and then you can work on composition, layouts, edits, concept refinement, and so on.
7. Prototype. The task of creating a prototype is just as important as the task of developing a design. However, the prototype of a product is a "skeleton" of the product's appearance, not a beautiful final appearance. Nonetheless, it demonstrates the product's functionality, user interaction methods, and primary impression.
The prototype's creation allows for the future avoidance of numerous errors and corrections. Both the customer and the designers will save time, money, and nerves due to this.
8. Usability testing. Usability testing is evaluating a product or service by putting it through its pace with real-world users.
During a usability test, participants will typically attempt to complete standard tasks while observers observe, listen, and take notes. The goal of this test in product design is to identify any usability issues, collect qualitative and quantitative data, and determine the level of satisfaction with the product among the participants.
Testing samples allow you to promptly detect imperfections in the product or inconsistencies with the specifications. That is before you start an expensive (in most cases) implementation procedure.
The samples can be designed and tested as often as necessary until they meet all requirements and receive enough positive feedback from customers.
9. Product analysis. You can begin to evaluate and gather insights on how your product solved the initially stated problem once it has been purchased, used, and reviewed.
When developing the next version of your product, feedback on the user experience is critical to consider. It will explain what needs to be changed, why changes are required, and how an updated version will better serve the end needs of users.
10. Improvement. Product design does not end at the launch of a product. It is a continuous process. After analyzing the performance of your product, start gathering feedback to create improvements to update the product.
It would help if you did not think you had done all there is to do regarding product design. Your mindset should always be that there is room for improvement.
Types of product design
There are three types of product design:
System design is a product design process that involves creating definitions for a system's components, models, and architecture. The system design process is meant to provide detailed information about the elements of the system. This is to ensure consistency of the models and views of the system in line with the architecture.
The architecture of most software designs follows an MVC approach. The MVC approach is the models, views, and controller approach. The model is where the logic of the software product is being written; the view is where the interface is designed to be a result of the system's model while the controller controls the logic of the model.
Elements of the system design process
i. Architecture. Architecture is the concept that determines the design's structure, functionality, and visual interface. It details the design process of the system. You can use flowcharts to design the architecture of the system.
ii. Modules. This is a separate unit of design that handles a specific task. A key characteristic of modules is that while they handle a specific task, they have features that enable them to work with different components.
iii. Components. Components provide the functionality of the system. They help to manage various parts of the system. They are made up of modules.
iv. Interface. The interface is the visual representation of the design. It is the point where the information on the logic is interpreted for the user's comprehension.
v. Data. This deals with the management of information across the system.
Activities during the system design process
Planning the design definition.
i. Determine the technologies the team will use to build the functionality and interface of the system.
ii. Plan for the replacement of obsolete technologies.
iii. Document the strategy for writing the design process. The document should include the requirements for the products or services needed to perform the design.
Create the design characteristics.
i. Define the design's characteristics based on the system's architecture. Ensure that the team can implement the definitions to meet the architecture's requirements.
ii. Document the design characteristics of each system element.
Manage the design process.
i. Maintain the decisions for the design and characteristics of the architecture.
ii. Control the evolution of the design characteristics.
Process design refers to the development process of the design. It is simply automating the processes that lead to the outcome of the product. While product design is about the product itself, process design focuses on the operations of the product's design.
To design the process of a product, it is essential to define the product's end goal and the steps to achieve that goal. This will make creating a repeatable flow of events for the product more accessible.
The Importance of Process design
i. It simplifies understanding the workflow of a product even for new team members.
ii. It makes automation of design procedures easier.
iii. It reveals the bottlenecks in the design process.
iv. It makes each step in the design actionable.
Interface design refers to how the design presents information to the users so that they can interact with the product to complete a task. The UI (User Interface) designer is responsible for designing the product's interface. They design all the screens a user will go through. The interface focuses on the user's visual experience.
A good interface design is a mix of visual design, interaction design, and information architecture
i. Visual design
The visual design makes a product appealing to the user. It focuses on elements like the fonts, the images, the logos, and the colors. These elements entice the user to the product at first sight. So, the user's connection with a product starts from the visual design.
ii. Interaction design
Interaction design focuses on the user's communication with the product. A user's interaction with a product will define the kind of experience the user will have. Hence, to create a positive user experience, the product designer considers how well the user can comprehend and relate to the words and icons in the design. An excellent interactive design will anticipate how the user's actions and center the design around such actions.
iii. Information architecture
Information architecture is designed to help users find the information they need to complete tasks. It involves the writing, labeling, and organization of the web content of a product in a way that makes it easily accessible and understandable to users.
Product design is a complex field. It deals with providing solutions to human needs. Thus, a product designer must be someone that pays attention to details.
You can learn the design process, but it can be overwhelming when you are learning independently. It would help if you also learned from professionals in the product design industry.
That is why you should consider signing up for the GoCreate USA Bootcamp, where you will get quality training in product design.
Richard Morris' The Fundamentals of Product Design
Don Norman's The Design of Everyday Things