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What is product design? 8 stages of the product design process


Kirill Karakhainko




May 4, 2022

The visual part of a digital product plays an incredibly important role. It makes the first impression on your audience, helps make users’ experience clear and convenient, and gives emotional satisfaction from the interaction in question.

The product design process can become overwhelming and if done wrong, it can lead to losing potential customers. Without the specific knowledge of how to design a product, you risk wasting time redoing it all over again or even staying off the market altogether; and that’s not something you want to happen when trying to bring your idea into the world.

In this article, we will talk about what product design is and describe eight fundamental steps to build a successful product. By reading this guide, you will not only know how to get started with product design but also receive useful tips on how to implement every step the right way.

What is product design?

Product design is the process of ideating and creating a product that matches the users’ needs and solves their problems. A good product design meets both business’ and target audience’s requirements, ultimately, promoting the brand and generating revenue.

Generally, design involves two core directions — UX (user experience) which is about clarity, convenience, and simplicity of interaction with the app, and UI (user interface) which is about the app’s attractiveness.

Product design is a more complicated area aimed at ensuring that a target audience likes the created app’s UI and UX and is engaged with the brand on the whole. A product designer must not only think about the appearance but also be able to deal with analytics and big data, as well as test theories in addition to constantly getting people’s feedback. Pleasant emotions evoked by a great design will rapidly fade away if users discover the product is useless. So, the development team must ensure that the product solves specific issues and keeps users interested.

All in all, product design is a sophisticated process that requires proper design thinking and a deep understanding of the target audience’s needs.

Get started with proper design thinking

Talking about the product design process, we should recall one fundamental concept referred to as ‘Design Thinking’. Many of the world's most well-known firms, including Apple, Google, and Samsung, have embraced this technique. It’s where the basics of product design take their roots from.

Design thinking offers an approach to solving issues in a practical way, focusing on an end-to-end process, not just on the design stage. It’s an iterative process that helps you understand your users, make challenging assumptions, redefine problems and create innovative solutions which you can then prototype and test.

Understanding your end user is what matters the most when creating a good product design. Designers have to study their potential clients' routines, frustrations, behaviors, wishes, and aspirations to build a truly valuable product.

Start with planning your business objectives and answer the following questions before thinking about any of the product features:

  • Who are you building your product for — who’s your target audience?

  • What are your business goals (build a brand, attract thousands of users, monetize the app, etc)?

  • What are the target audience’s problems that you are trying to solve?

  • What are the competitive advantages of your future product?

These answers will help you get started with designing a product which the market will welcome and support.

8 essential steps in the product design process

Having a robust, well-structured product design process is critical to being productive, making winning decisions, and avoiding extra work. The following steps of the design process will make your planning smooth and highly efficient.

Keep in mind that it’s not a linear algorithm. Throughout the work, you might be required to return to previous stages, make adjustments, and most likely repeat the same actions.

Step 1. Idea generation and strategy

The first of the design phases is all about defining the product vision, brainstorming ideas, and building a solid product strategy.

According to the McKinsey Global Institute, just 1.5 product concepts out of every 7 are launched, and only one succeeds. Not every suggested concept results in a profitable product. This is why this step is extremely important.

You need to come up with numerous ideas and concepts for a future product and think about different ways to solve customer problems as well as find the most workable solution that will turn into a viable, lucrative product.

Here are a few actionable techniques that will help generate as many exciting product ideas and concepts as possible:

  • Brainstorming. This is a group activity (ideally, of 5-10 people) with a designated group leader aimed at generating a great batch of ideas and discussing them within the team. A session usually takes about fifteen minutes to an hour, but can help you come up with dozens of remarkable solutions.

  • Mind-mapping. Write your main problem (a word) on paper as the core term and start jotting down everything relevant. Then do the same with the words you've just put down. Finally, you'll get a complex mind map with a lot of branches that are full of ideas. When building a new product, you may start with the word "product" as the central term and then add potential users’ needs as the first-level branches—for example, safety, ease of use, speed, and so on. When you add terms to these attributes, you could just come up with a solution that encompasses all of these requirements.

  • 6-3-5 method. Over the course of five minutes, 6 people have to jot down 3 suggestions each that are related to the topic. First, each person jots down three possible solutions. Then the problem must be clearly described from the beginning. They then hand their papers to the person in the seat next to them. Said person can then expand on these ideas or come up with other ones depending on what they observe. Seeing things from someone else's point of view can be a powerful catalyst for a completely new concept. This process continues until each participant receives their original paper. That’s how you can easily produce 108 ideas during just one session.

  • Concept drawings and 3D proof-of-concept prototypes may also help you visualize ideas that address issues. Examine the concept's values and shortcomings before making any decisions.

When you generate some workable solutions, it’s time to organize them in a solid product design strategy. This strategy will serve you in the following manner:

  • Helps with design concerns;

  • Assists you in determining what type of product you should create;

  • Gives insight into what will make a product successful before it’s developed;

  • Incorporates other disciplines into the design process;

  • Guides the development process.

At this stage, you need to organize a launch team meeting to set clear expectations for the team and stakeholders. It should include a high-level overview of the product's purpose, a delegation of the tasks and processes, a discussion of the workflow, and a definition of the KPIs which will allow a stakeholder to measure the product’s success.

Investing time and money in the strategic phase is a wise decision as it helps you set a solid foundation for further work and will synchronize the team's vision and activities.

Step 2. Product research

Before proceeding to the next phases of design and making any decisions, you must determine whether there is a substantial demand or need for your solution as a whole. For this, conduct a thorough study to assess your chances of success.

There are numerous aspects and ways to research:

  • Trend analysis works to define the most popular solutions in the market;

  • Market research can determine the state of the chosen industry and its actual problems;

  • Competitive research helps us understand how your competitors address comparable challenges and learn from their winning design patterns and errors;

  • Target audience research defines a group of people who will potentially use your product and understand their peculiarities (gender, age, marital status, income level, geography, employment, work position, usual issues, concerns, desires, etc.).

Don’t try to design your product for everyone. Use analytics data to create a relevant buyer persona and help your team grasp what the final product should look like to meet the client and customer demand.

The following methods will make your product research process effective and simple to implement:

  • Interviews. Direct dialogue is a well-known user research approach that may provide you with a wealth of information about the consumers. This method may be used to analyze a user’s demands and sentiments before a product is produced or even launched.

  • Inquiry into the context. Researchers can utilize this strategy to learn more about the context of a potential product’s use. Learn how individuals go about their daily routines in their natural environment by asking them a series of basic questions, such as "What is the most common job you regularly perform?" This encourages you to put yourself in your consumers' shoes, allowing you to fully empathize with them.

  • Online polls. Surveys and questionnaires allow you to collect a large number of replies useful for an extensive target audience analysis in a short period of time. Although online polls are quick and affordable to execute, they won’t provide you with the same level of analytics that you would get through in-person conversations.

Useful tip: Don’t make your online polls too complex and unbearable. According to studies, if a survey takes more than 5 minutes to complete, the response rate reduces by 15%, and if it takes more than 10 minutes, the response rate lowers by 40%.

Step 3. Putting specifications together

If you carefully gather all the details about the project and have your criteria at hand, you will have less trouble with implementing a product and not get lost on the way. Thus, don’t omit the process of developing requirement specifications which includes a list of future product standards.

The delimitation of tasks, timelines, and expenses should also be described. The documents containing all of your product specifications will be necessary during the product development process.

Project management apps such as Jira, Trello, Notion, and Asana will help you stay organized, track tasks, progress, roadmaps etc.

Step 4. Sketching

The preliminary drawings are essential for any huge project. Sketches help you to narrow down the path when picking a core concept. Based on them, you may find it easier to work on composition, layouts, edits, concept refining, and other design elements.

The popular graphic design software for creating sketches could be Figma, Sketch, Photoshop.

Step 5. Prototyping

Building a prototype is an important step in the product design process as it allows you to test your hypothesis after narrowing down the design concepts. It also helps a designer see if they're on the right road and create a preliminary view of the future product.

The end result of prototyping is more of a "skeleton" of the future product's appearance than a stunning final appearance. The skeleton of the screens is drawn in the wireframes process. Nonetheless, it enables you to see the product's navigation, user interaction scenarios, and the basic appearance of the app.

By baselining the fundamental information architecture, you design the page structure and navigation flow to assure interface usability and decrease design time. Thus, the prototype helps you avoid numerous errors and reworks in the future, saving you time, money, and nerves.

For wireframing and prototyping, you will need to use such tools as Sketch or Figma.

Step 6. The production process

At this time, you should have a complete set of technical specifications with well-defined needs, tasks, responsibilities, timelines, and budget. So, you’re good to start developing the product.

Break down the laborious activities into smaller subtasks (so that they may be completed within a few weeks) and prioritize them. Agile methodologies, such as Scrum or Kanban, will streamline the process.

Step 7. Assuring product quality

You have to assure the quality of a final product to avoid any complaints from users after its’ release.

The most effective way to check and improve your existing product is by conducting qualitative usability testing. A QA team is in charge of doing pre-release testing to check the quality of the developed solution, its compliance with the requirements specification, and the target audience's expectations. For this, Quality Assurance specialists test different app features and scenarios and check how the software works on different devices to ensure there are no bugs, lags, and errors.

Quality assurance efforts span all stages of product development, from conception to release and maintenance. You can also perform tests with the attraction of real people and focus groups.

Step 8. Post-launch

Hooray, you’ve launched your well-designed and tested product in the market!

However, don’t expect that people will buy your product right away after you are done with the design phases. They might ask some questions about it, so you should be prepared to answer them all. Also, users will be comparing your product to the rivals’ apps, so never stop working on new unique selling features.

The post-launch step is as important as all the previous phases of design. It may appear to be the simplest stage in the entire design process. It isn't, though. You need to constantly improve your product if you want it to succeed. Conduct user testing and research to ensure that every decision you make will give you a competitive advantage.

Designing a top-notch product with TechWings

So now that you know what product design is and what the process steps are, creating a successful product that people will eagerly use shouldn’t be too challenging.

Still, a good product design takes time and effort, and requires dedication and professional care, clear communication, problem-solving skills, as well as the ability to use specialized software. If you are not sure you are able to cover the entire process on your own, better trust this tedious task to an expert team. This is where TechWings comes in.

TechWings is here to help you! We have a proven product design process that will make things a hundred times easier and more efficient for your business. Contact us today to start implementing your ideas into a workable product.

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