4 Critical Considerations for Product Design

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As you embark on the journey of product design and development you have a lot to consider. This is true of a product you are inventing or even one you are improving. However, there is a tendency to ignore some crucial factors while you navigate through the early stages of product development. Here are some of those items we feel can make or break your product’s success…


Hire a Qualified UI/UX Designer

This where most early stage product startups fail. A mistake that is largely made because the thought of design brings up images of the way the product “looks.”

Lowering the value of design in favor of saving money can be a costly mistake in the end. Look at the actual numbers, and you begin to see a different story. During the past year we have tracked the percentage design occupies in a product development budget. What we found was that initial design for a marketable MVP is anywhere between 15-20 percent of total project budget. That means that development, testing and delivery cost considerably more than design.

But just because design expense is less than the development budget, does not mean it is less important, however. It also does not mean that design only applies to the “look” of the app. It is far more than which color the buttons are or if your icon color is cornflower blue. Performance of your application does not only lie with the functional code. Like all successful products since the days of the Bauhaus, form and function are the key performance indicators. Marketwatch produced a report showing that 90 percent of app users abandon or delete a poorly performing application. The digital ergonomics of your product are as much a part of its design, or even more so than the final “branded” graphics that are presented to your user. Now, if performance is measured by functionality and design, how could anyone believe design has less value?

A qualified designer will help you do more than make your product look good. They will help make it more usable. They study the psychology of your consumer and are experts in interaction patterns. Don’t cheapen your product by making design as an afterthought.


Create User Personas or Use Cases For Your Product

Knowing your product is great but knowing your product’s users and its use cases is even better. Start out on the right foot and describe the moments in which your product will be used. What do you think would compel them to use the product? How long will each use case take? Are they in the car? Or are they on the go? In the office or at home? These scenarios influence the experience of your product.

Coupled with your product’s use cases, a lot can be gained out of creating user personas. This takes quite a bit of effort but can be be extremely helpful in your product design. This is basically sitting down with your team and creating fictional characters. They have their own names, ages, occupations, likes, dislikes, etc. Think of as much as you can in terms of their lifestyle and document it. Find avatars to make them even more real and tangible.

Taking the time to create these items will help you hammer out more focused feature sets. User personas provide a piece of the map that allows you to break out problem situations and simplify them.


Do Not Let Perfect Be The Enemy of Your Progress

Product companies always want to make their first impression in the market their best impression. It can seem like the best thing to do. However running a more iterative approach can get a product to market faster and allow you to improve your product through live experimentation.

General Electric, one of the most profitable companies on the planet (#5 on Fortune 500), uses lean methodologies to to make small improvements to new or existing products which they then release to their customers. They call this program “FastWorks.” It’s a system that allows them to create faster product releases with improved features in fractions of the time it would take to make the final product perfect.

A more relatable example of this is your current operating system. Whether you are a Windows, Apple, Linux or Chrome user, that operating system came packaged up, with love, from reputable software providers—and it came to you riddled with bugs. Some of those bugs they have not even found yet. However, there are plenty that they know of when the product goes out to market.

Think about that for a moment. If Apple can get millions of users to adopt a product that they release with known imperfections, why does your product have to be perfect?

In digital product design we fly under different quality ceilings than that of, let’s say, an auto manufacturer. We can constantly update and improve our products and at anytime from virtually anywhere. That is a very powerful perk to our industry and it should be embraced! It is a paradigm we see, as users, on an almost daily basis. Apps updating, Facebook UI design changes, features added to your favorite web service, etc. Users have adapted to the fact that this is the way software works—and they appreciate it. As digital product designers, we are excused from being perfect, but must promise to strive toward improved quality.


Expect Outcomes, Not Successes and Failures

You may have heard the mantra “Fail early, fail often,”especially in the context of lean and agile methodologies. But in design’s case, we should adjust the term just a bit:

“Get outcomes early, get outcomes often.”

An attendee at a Barcamp Philly reminded me that we should stop expecting failure in our process but instead expect outcomes, no matter what they are.

If you are always moving your product design and development in the direction of getting outcomes you should find a very nice trajectory. With outcomes you gain data knowledge, and that is gold in terms of improving your product. Every outcome should bring you closer to improvement.

Although this discipline is closely associated with lean methodologies it was first  shown to us as the Scientific Method. It’s a simple process. Begin with a problem that raises questions, develop a hypothesis for a solution to the problem, design a model to test your hypothesis, gather results of the test, refine your hypothesis and repeat the process all over again. There is no better avenue to product innovation.

Throughout my career as a product designer, I have seen some and even all of these considerations left out of the equation. When we set out to help our clients; we take all of the above into consideration. A great product can fall very short of the mark and never reach its valued potential if these considerations go ignored. When you embark on that next product invention or improvement, be sure to keep them in mind. You may find it easier than you thought to build products people love.

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About The Author(s)

Len Damico
Len Damico is the head of Design at Arcweb Technologies, helping to solve challenging business problems through beautifully functional and user-friendly designs.
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