In product design, imagination is crucial. Different ideas can create unique products to solve problems or needs. Within Software Development, Product Design is a leading branch. Why is it so relevant to tech processes? Here, we'll review the basic principles of Product Design. Also, we’ll unfold its characteristics, process, and more.
Let's start by quoting Dr. Ralf Speth, CEO of Jaguar Land Rover. He says, "if you think good design is expensive, you need to consider the cost of bad design." So, what is it?
Product Design aims to develop products with a high degree of usability. In all cases, innovative solutions aim to meet users' needs. Even more, we see its outcomes in daily usage at any interaction with digital devices. Moreover, it integrates Design Thinking. This cognitive approach handles problems and their possible and creative solutions through
● Complex processes with a series of specific tasks.
● A focus on human interaction and business goals.
● Continuous iterations to reach the problem's core.
Product Designers handle the products' creation and development. This process goes beyond simplicity and intuitivity. Furthermore, product use is subject to constant changes in demanding markets. To better understand their role, we can contemplate the following characteristics:
● Definition of the developed product's goals.
● Creation of roadmaps to forecast future results.
● Planification of brand and product launch.
Yet, product designers encompass a broader role. Also, it includes design elements like UX. In this context, there's a focus on the experience each user has with each component of the final product. Because of this, they also measure potential decision impacts. This analysis includes the short, medium, and long-term goals. Last but not least, they keep close relations with development and marketing teams. As a result, the outcome ensures strategic unity.
Three main types of Product Design are separated by their different goals.
This design compresses architecture, interfaces, and components to meet users' needs. Its edges include load-balancing and scalability. In fact, big tech brands like Apple, Amazon, and Google commonly rely on System Design. Professionals of it handle the information architecture within a target or market. While they focus on logical organization, they do not miss commercial goals.
Here, the goal is to optimize vital processes for development, like security. The complex systematization of Process Design has a particular purpose. In this case, it's about easing each site interaction. These processes apply to eCommerce sites' steps, like selection, checkout, and payment.
Colors, fonts, and other audiovisual elements should help users navigate. That's when Interface Design takes the lead. The core of this role is to guide users through the design to achieve tangible outcomes. This edge of Design has the most human-first approach of all. In this sense, the interface is the touchpoint between users and products or services.
At the same time, it's necessary to clarify that these processes don't follow a linear path. The design process itself never stops, even when the product has reached its mature state. The addition of smartphones into common-life society stands out as an example. With the rise of mobile devices and advanced tech, designers keep adjusting to new needs.
It's unnecessary to create a rivalry between Product Design and Development. That's because, in the end, these fields go hand in hand. These edges complement each other and are necessary for every production process. So, what are the Product Design stages? The consensus enumerates them as follows:
1. Brainstorming. Here, teams reunite to get the desired product's concept.
2. Defining. In this stage, there's a close study of the target scope.
3. Prototyping. At this moment, teams create visual representations from initial conclusions.
4. Designing. It's here when the product starts its building with an initial model.
5. Testing. After designing, there are validation phases for development and strategies.
6. Launching. With all previous steps completed, the final product launches into the market.
As German industrial designer Diet Rams once said, "You cannot understand good design if you do not understand people. " This statement, while correct, can be messy if you don't know where to start with your product design. Years later, Aarron Walter translated it into a hierarchy of aspects. Like many pyramids in different fields, the most fundamental needs are at the bottom. Only after achieving the bottom steps can you think of the next ones. Thus, after attaining all stages, you can finally say you have achieved a good product.
When in doubt about its usefulness, it's first necessary to ask the question. Does this product solve my problems? If a product cannot solve a problem, it has no value. Thus, users will need more motivation to use it. In an imaginary Venn diagram, utility is the converging point of user and business needs. In this scenario, a stunning result with no utility will not meet the requirements.
While appearance it's crucial, products should offer consistent performance. Thus, any unexpected problem can lead to a loss of reliability. If users face system crashes with your product, you'll most likely face a lack of trust from them. And in the long term, this untrust will lead to business losses in loyalty and revenue.
Here, the focus is on the product's quality. In usability terms, a product succeeds with intuitive designs following design patterns. How easy is the product to use? In this stage, the emphasis is on the ease of human-product interactions. So, products should be easy to learn and use.
Usability and usefulness are just some of the relevant aspects in business terms. Thus, products must provoke positive emotional delight when interacting. In other words, they need to invoke pleasure. Yet, there are two types of pleasure in this context.
The first one, surface pleasure, refers to the aesthetically design. It also helps to differentiate from competitors within a niche. Also, users tend to connect the aesthetics of a product with its easiness to use. The second one, deep pleasure, comes when users successfully go through the workflow. Also, it has robust components of utility and reliability. Said reliability comes from knowing users' needs at each step of the product journey.
The final step of this pyramid involves action. In this context, the idea goes from wanting a product to needing it. After achieving the needing stage, products can become symbols of values. Thus, desirability is about assessing its convenience and feelings. To sum up, does the product make people glad they own it?
It's noteworthy having a product design strategy from scratch. By drawing an action method, you'll outline every path's steps. In this scenario, relying on the Design Thinking approach is a good idea. As explained by Cam Sackett, stages would go as follows.
“Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.” — Tim Brown, president, and CEO, of IDEO.
● Empathy. The first phase comprises the investigation and understanding of the problem. It's about listening and attending to the user's emotions, motivations, and expectations. Making an empathy map of what the user hears, sees, says, does, or feels is advisable.
● Definition. It would help if you acknowledged both the problem and solution ideas. With all prior research, it is possible to conceptualize and attack the problem. Mental maps and mood boards are great tools to structure the situation better.
● Prototyping. Creating a prototype can give life to previous ideas. This step is the last before the final solution. The idea is not to confirm the hypothesis but to experiment in the most accessible way.
● Testing. First, it's necessary to analyze the proposed prototypes. Yet, having palpable feedback is crucial to understand the actual product. The best solutions come when you keep a curious and experimental mind.
After the product launches to the public, it also goes through a lifecycle. In this scenario, the enclosed stages are more business-related.
Here, teams develop a marketing strategy to ensure awareness from customers and users. Often, this process occurs through advertising investments. While the demand takes shape, sales can be slower than expected. Yet, there are other edges to consider. Some include complexity, innovation and suitability, and competitors' status.
If the product succeeds in the market introduction, it can start its life cycle. The growth stage involves higher demand and extended availability. At this stage, competition becomes more important than ever. Other companies would launch similar products with added features or different focuses. Thus, branding becomes key to keeping your position. Yet, edges like pricing rise in relevance when focused on driving continuous sales.
In the Maturity stage, the product achieved consolidation in the marketplace. As a result, there'll be a decrease in marketing and production costs. Yet, this is when market saturation takes place. With customers and competitors established, certain aspects make the difference. Among these, branding, pricing, and differentiation determine the market share. Thus, the role of users will change. In this context, achieving new customers and expanding markets are indispensable. Likewise, taking care of already loyal customers is a necessity.
As competition increases, the level of decline tends to increase. Some companies will choose to switch or expand their markets. To maintain relevance, they'll likely offer products in different categories. Meanwhile, others will decide to keep offering the initial product. On this path, innovating existing products can help the drop's survival. Yet, production and profit margins will likely slow down. In this scenario, many old products could return to their original market share. This achievement relates to adjustments adapted to new needs, new users, and a new era.
Management, design, and marketing professionals use these cycles for different purposes. Most of them encompass methodologies, pricing, and expansion strategies. These cycles allow businesses to know if a product is ready to market. But it also helps to prevent possible focus changes.
Product Design is broader and more strategic than most users realize. It's not only about making things look good. Further, it encompasses the entire process. In this context, users do not only identify the pleasure or attractiveness of a product. Also, they acknowledge its usability, reliability, and functionality. Thus, before any steps, it's substantial to ask what the impact of the product would be.