● What Is Product Design?
● Key Elements Of The Product Design Process
● 5 Examples Of Successful Product Design
Let us first understand what a “product” is. As a marketing concept, a product is a good or service developed and offered as an outcome of market (i.e., consumer) demand. In short, anything that satisfies a customer’s desire or need can be called a “product.”
Products can be tangible (which can be used directly) or intangible (which can be used indirectly).
The meaning of the term “product” has evolved from referring to physical goods or services only to including “digital goods and services” in today’s hyper-digitalized world! Today, an app or a website is a product as much as cement or toothpaste.
This blog focuses on the ultimate product design process. But first, let’s get into what product design involves.
Unlike what it means at first reading, “product design” is not just creating the shape and form of a product or service. It involves clear steps,
● Identifying a customer or market need (opportunity)
● Defining the marketing problem that the “product” can solve
● Developing a valuable and credible solution for that problem (the actual product)
● Confirming or validating the solution with actual users before putting it out to market.
Product design relies on “design thinking” as the basis for the entire product design process. The term “design thinking” was coined by David Kelly and Tim Brown of the IDEO agency.
Its basic premise is that product development is not just about “designing” a product – it integrates a human-centric approach to product innovation with the market’s requirements, the technological developments of the time, and the ingredients for business success. It thus goes beyond “business thinking” as a comprehensive solution.
Graphically, we can present the difference between business thinking and design thinking as below:
Any design thinking process moves along the path from “concept” to “product form.” Along the way, the following points need to be considered as part of this design thinking process or framework:
○ What is the problem?
○ Define the marketing challenge
○ Understand the human context
○ Carry out research
○ Develop a point of view that can be a starting point for the product design process
○ Why is this product design or development important?
○ Conceive various solutions
- Product prototype
○ The product creation
○ Market introduction process
○ Does the proposed product work?
○ Test the product with the target audience
○ Refine the product as per feedback from the audience
Visually, this framework has been presented as below:
Product design integrates the following:
● It uses design thinking to offer the marketing/consumer problem a comprehensive solution
● It addresses the needs of the market/consumer group
● It provides multiple ways to interact with the product
● It delivers an optimum user experience at all times
● It is a result of a business strategy
● It offers the possibility of continuous improvement
Product design is a strategic process. It requires a set of tools for proper growth and optimum resource allocation. The main tools that are used for product design include:
● Product roadmap apps such as ProductPlan or Tara
● Project management apps like Trello or Asana
● Graphic design apps such as Photoshop or Lightroom
● Wireframing and prototyping apps like Sketch or Figma
● Research and data analytics tools such as Google Analytics.
As we have seen, product design should keep the user experience (UX) at the center of the process. There are clearly defined product design steps that should be followed to present a product that answers the following questions effectively:
● What is the problem to be solved?
● Who has this problem?
● What do we want to achieve by designing the product?
The main product design steps are as follows:
● Develop the product strategy and vision
○ Understand the context for developing the product
○ The product goal should be very clear to everyone involved in the product design process
○ A product vision lays down the critical information required by the design team and lays down boundaries for the process (the “why” of the process)
○ The product strategy defines the product development journey (the “how” of the process).
● Define the product’s value proposition
○ The who, what, why, and how of the product
○ This helps build a common purpose and action plan for the entire team involved in the product design process.
● Carry out product research
○ User and market research is the next step after defining the product value proposition.
○ Research early in the product design process helps save money, time, and effort.
○ It prevents multiple adjustments down the line.
○ The backing of insightful research and clear findings or data to inform the product design process will help sell the idea to internal and external stakeholders much more effectively.
● Understand the competition
○ Market research and competitor analysis are fundamental in product design.
○ They help avoid “me-too” products that could fail in the market
○ Market research also helps develop a competitive advantage in the product.
● Understand the user
○ The data collected through the research and competitor analysis phases are just numbers.
○ The product design team must draw actionable and valuable insights from the data to paint a clear picture of the prospective user.
○ This, in turn, will help the product UX designers work towards a better product design.
○ Creating user personas will help develop realistic audience segments and give relevant product use contexts.
● The ideation phase
○ The product and creative teams come together to propose ideas that address the defined goals.
○ The ideation phase also helps to validate the main product design assumptions.
○ Customer journey mapping, sketching, storyboarding, and scenario definition are some key tools that can be used to generate ideas for product design.
● The design phase
○ The ideation phase described above gives the product design team a clear view of the product to be built and launched.
○ The design phase is where the team creates or builds the solution that best solves the customer/marketing problem.
○ The three sub-phases of the design phase include prototyping, reviewing, and refining.
○ Product testing must be carried out to ensure the product works as it should.
○ The test phase can also provide additional valuable insights that can enhance or even change the product strategy defined earlier.
○ Testing should be done with internal (company) audiences and external audiences (actual users).
○ The product validation phase answers three critical product design and development questions.
■ Can we build the product?
■ Should we build the product?
■ Can people use the product?
○ The validation phase also confirms the capital, manpower, infrastructure, and time needed to build and market the product.
● Post-launch process
○ Product design is an ongoing process
○ It does not end with the launch of the product
○ Product refinement and improvement are important parts of product design
○ Qualitative and quantitative feedback is important post-launch to help the product design team refine the product over the product life cycle.
Now that we have understood the product design and development process, here are some examples of how this process has been implemented by companies that have become hugely successful players in their respective markets.
○ Founded in 1988 by Larry Page and Sergei Brin, Google has moved from just an online search engine to a company offering multiple products and services.
○ Innovation is at the heart of Google’s product development strategy.
○ The company constantly innovates to keep it ahead of the competition and to maintain its pre-eminent position in the marketplace.
○ This helps ensure a steady stream of products using technical insights and optimization.
○ Launched in 1997 as a mail-order DVD rental brand, Netflix today is the world’s leading streaming entertainment service.
○ Netflix believes in the “experiment, test, and learn” product development method.
○ The consumer is central to Netflix’s product innovation
○ Original content and product personalization are critical drivers of its product development process.
○ From an online bookstore launched in 1994 to the world’s largest online marketplace for almost anything, Amazon has come a long way.
○ Amazon also keeps consumer interest at the heart of its product design and development.
○ It uses the “working backwards” principle to derive new product designs and ideas from customer experience (CX).
○ It uses a press release as a roadmap to give an overview of the product, its direction, and progress.
○ This Amsterdam-based company was launched in 1996 as a startup and has today evolved into one of the world’s biggest online travel brands.
○ Its product development is centered around “making it easier to experience the world.”
○ It has used this concept to leap upwards from being a room-reservation website to cover flights, attractions, car rentals, and other elements of a travel experience.
○ The company carries out extensive product research, testing, and validation before launching it
○ Launched in 2013 as a video-conferencing tool, Zoom was virtually unknown before the COVID-19 pandemic.
○ Eric Yuan, the company’s founder and CEO, says that the company’s vision is to “provide a cloud video communications solution to make customers happy.”
○ Customer needs and product feedback are two critical pillars of Zoom’s product design and development strategy.
○ It launched Zoom as a “freemium product” to ensure that customers can experience it, advocate it to others and eventually upgrade to a paid plan with more features.
Every company needs a new product pipeline for growth and success. The product must add tangible value to customers, and for this, the company needs to develop and put in place a robust product design and development strategy.
Product design is for people. The product must deliver the right features at the right time to the right audience at the right place and cost. As a result, defining the product design process before designing it is crucial to any strategy.
● Always put customers at the center of the product design process.
● The product design process should be flexible enough to accommodate changes in customer or market needs, timelines, and budgets
● Product design is not a linear process. There are plenty of overlaps in the product design stages.
● Design, especially for digital products, is an ongoing process.
● Good communication is critical for good product design and development.
Anything that satisfies a customer’s desire or need can be called a “product.”
The process of identifying a marketing or customer problem, developing a valuable and valid solution for that problem, and validating the solution with actual users.
Design thinking is a product design approach to align market needs, technological developments, and requirements of business success for a successful product design strategy.
1. What is the problem to be solved?
2. Who has this problem?
3. What do we want to achieve by designing the product?
○ Develop the product strategy and vision
○ Carry out product research
○ Understand the competition and user base
○ Testing and Validation
○ Post-launch process