During the last two decades, the definition of product design has changed dramatically. We used to think of it as a physical item made by a craftsman, but this isn't how it works now.
Product Design has evolved to be one of the most important functions within software.
Get ready to learn everything you need to know about product design, from a software perspective, including its history, definition, process and stages.
Now let's dive in....
What is Product Design?
A product designer conceives, develops, and refines the design of a new product. This might include a brand-new design, or a redesigned interface. For the product to be successful, it is essential for a product designer to understand your customers or end users.
There are two types of design – specifically, UX and UI.
UI stands for “user interface” and is focused on fonts, colors and typography.
The UX stands for "user experience" and is about how users interact with the product.
An example of a UX designer's focus would be to simplify the settings menu, so everything is easily found in one place, without the user feeling overwhelmed. A poorly designed software product might have customizable features hidden away in multiple menus. This could possibly create for a poor experience, although they had great intentions when creating the design.
See below for a great example on this.
Why is Product Design Important?
Design is important because customers have more software options than ever before, so providing an easy-to-use product that solves a specific problem is the first step to success.
However, if the customer does not enjoy using it, or finds the interface to be confusing, then they’re going to be more likely to switch to a competitor. Product design is also essential to making a positive first impression on users, especially if the company offers free product demos.
Unless your customer likes the look and feel of your product, they won't learn how to use it. It's also less likely they'll convert to a paid option, which will obviously impact your revenue.
A useful product, without great design, is doomed to fail.
The History of Product Design
To better understand product design, let's look at its history. Thousands of years ago, humans created tools to handle their tasks. Each tool had a particular design to make this task easier. Today, we use the word "product" to describe both hardware and software.
Although the meaning has changed, the philosophy has not.
Throughout the industrial design era, "industrial designer" became more common. However, the experts are now called product designers. This phrase covers a whole bunch of job titles, like UX designers, user researchers, and information architects. It's also common for professionals to combine these duties and call themselves "product designers."
What is Design Thinking?
The design thinking process is a double strategy that combines empathic thinking and a way to find the best possible solution for market gaps or issues.
The user and user experience is at the center of every successful product design.
Unfortunately organizations that use design thinking know that innovation doesn't happen by force. Also, they realize that advancing and innovating solely for the sake of innovation won't get them what customers really want and need.
So it’s important to adopt a human-centered approach to ensure the product is successful.
Here are the five steps to design thinking:
Empathize is the first step of product design, which requires a designer to get inside the problem they're trying to solve so they can understand it from all angles. In essence, this stage is where the "human" element of human contact is introduced, letting designers put themselves in the shoes of people who are experiencing the problem. Taking this step will also help designers see a situation objectively and remove any personal judgment.
As part of this stage, designers formulate a human-centered problem statement based on the information and viewpoints they've gathered. This is the time when designers and their teams should be asking "what?" and "how?" more than anywhere else, like, what should we do?
Alternatively, how should we go about it?
It's an important turning point in product design guidelines when product designers go from gathering and compiling information to actually doing interaction design processes. This is when features and concepts start building upon each other. Apart of this process can be an open forum where all designers can share their ideas, good or bad, so they can see what works.
To prototype a product, the product designer and their team make low-fidelity designs and concepts to see how it will look. Solutions are conceived, prototyped, scrutinized, improved, re-implemented, or just scrapped during this phase. In this case, the design team will know the major obstacles and limitations and should work hard to overcome them.
In reality, the last stage of the design process is almost never the last stage. The solutions developed in earlier phases are carefully examined in testing to see how the product can be improved. It's actually more like a loop, with product designers going back to the beginning, sometimes more than once, to make a polished product.
Keep in mind that design thinking is not a race – it’s a marathon. The stages are not in order, and once you have finished all five, you are not finished. You and your team will need to go back and redo these steps in order to finally perfect your product, which is why iterative development got its name.
How to introduce the design thinking method to your team
Here are some tips to get you started if you want your team to start using design thinking.
- Begin small: Testing the design thinking process on a small team is just like testing a prototype on a small group. Put these people to work on some small projects to see how they do. If everything goes well, you can gradually roll out this process to other teams.
- Teamwork: Collaboration and brainstorming are key to the design thinking process. Decide who your designer's key stakeholders are and include them in the test group.
- Be organized: Keep important design project documents such as user research, wireframes, and brainstorms in a collaborative tool. By doing this, team members will have one source of truth for everything they're working on. Common tools for this are Figma, Notion, Clickup or Confluence.
Steps in the Product Design Process
Product design is a multi-step process that can take years to complete. Each step is critical in the design and development of the product.
Here's a breakdown of the process:
Step 1: Brainstorming
It's possible to come up with a new product idea from anywhere. You could base it on customer feedback or the best-selling product of a competitor. But the best products come from real-world pain points. These are products that solve problems for the target market.
Step 2: Filtering
Not every product design concept pitched to a company sees the light of day. It's common for companies to have a strict screening process in place for impractical product ideas. As part of the screening process, the company evaluates product ideas based on price, profitability, competition, longevity, etc.
Step 3: Building a Concept
After a product passes screening, it goes into concept development. In this phase, a 'Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats' analysis is performed on the product concept to determine its value. A relevant pitch can then be developed after segmenting the market and identifying the target market.
Step 4: Product Development
This is the stage at which the final product is created. To begin, a prototype is created, and the product is tested with a pilot. If the pilot or soft launch is a success, the product is mass-produced.
Step 5: Launching
The process of launching and commercializing a product requires careful planning and execution. At this stage, the marketing team develops end-to-end promotional campaigns with multiple customer touch points that span multiple channels.
Examples of Best Product Designs
DoorDash is a technology company that connects people with the best of what their towns have to offer. They have become the number one choice for those looking for the best local restaurants, cafés, and diners.
The web app design is beautiful and functional. The user interface (UI) of the application is distinctive, with aesthetically pleasing fonts, color palettes, and simple navigation. Because of the modern and clean interface, the UX is excellent. The information presented is of high quality and is displayed with care on the webapp.
Making social media graphics, presentations, posters, and other visual content is possible with Canva, a graphic design platform. The app's free and premium templates are available to users. One of the best web applications on the market, according to critics, is Canva.
It's amazing how they convey messages and arouse emotions by using fonts, graphics, andcolor schemes. Every image and template included in Canva is expressive and captures the spirit of the business. Canva is one of the most user-friendly platforms despite having a ton of features and templates to choose from.
Podcasts and digital music are both available on Spotify. Through the platform, you have access to millions of songs and other works by authors all over the world. With digital copyright restrictions on recorded music and podcasts, Spotify offers more than 70 million songs from record labels and media companies.
Spotify makes excellent use of a lot of simple techniques, from its dark user interface to the fonts and color schemes it employs. The responsiveness and effectiveness of Spotify's user interface have contributed to its rise to the top of the streaming market. Spotify has a fantastic user interface that directs users toward the primary focus. Users can easily understand and use the web application.
In order for product design to be successful, the design process should adapt to the project, not the other way around. You'll choose your design process based on where the feature or product is in the development cycle. Basically, if your product is still in its early days, you might want to do more user testing.
Then you can focus on growth and optimization if it's already out.You should keep improving and refining your product, because that's what we do! Once a product is made, don't assume it's done. As users' demands evolve, keep improving your creation.
Last but not least, keep in mind that we are designing something that people will use. In the field of product design, we play a key role in your future and the future of someone else.