Tuesday, March 21, 2023
Product design and product design process
Product design is the process of creating new products or improving existing ones to meet the needs of customers.
We can see product design all around us. Everything we see, touch, and use has been designed by someone. There are designs that we accept as a matter of course, like matches, and some we admire, like iPhones.
No matter which example we are looking at, all products undergo several stages from idea to post-launch evaluation. Product design is an essential part of business as it defines how our products will be accepted. A well-designed product will be more attractive to customers, have higher sales, and build brand reputation and loyalty.
It is important to acknowledge that product design is not limited to physical products. Digital products require product design as well. The goal of a product design is to create useful, usable, and desired products - this applies to physical and digital products.
In this article, we will look into all product design stages to define the product design process:
- Understanding user needs
- Ideation and concept development
- Prototyping and testing
- Design refinement
- Manufacturing and production
- Launch and evaluation
Understanding user needs
It all starts with understanding the user's needs. It doesn't make any sense to design products that nobody needs or wants.
This stage includes conducting user research, researching the target audience, understanding preferences and pain points, and investigating existing solutions.
The research phase involves user surveys, interviews, focus groups, and observations. It is a combination of offline and online tools and methods.
Understanding user needs helps designers to create products that are focused on solving real problems. Such products provide value to their users and can sometimes build a habit.
Being the first step in the process, understanding needs sets the foundation for the rest of the product design process. Without understanding user needs, the product design process fails due to not meeting customer expectations.
A part of the process includes developing product user personas. A user persona is a fictional character who will be using your product and has characteristics you have discovered during the research phase.
Ideation and concept development
The next step of the product design process is generating ideas and concepts for the product.
In this stage, people working on a product run brainstorming sessions, create sketches and build prototypes. The goal is to generate as many ideas as possible to narrow them down to a few viable concepts.
There are no limitations as designers of the product can come up with anything that comes to their mind. Also, various techniques, such as mind mapping and word association can be used in the process.
As you have several concepts defined, you can work on sketches and prototypes to test feasibility of the ideas.
Overall, this step in the process will help to determine the direction of your product design in the steps to follow.
Prototyping and testing
As you have several concepts in the box, it is necessary to create prototypes to test them out.
Prototype involves creating a simple (and fake) replica of your physical or digital goods to test their functionality and usability. You can use 3D printers, modeling software, coding tools, cheap materials.
Prototype should not always be functional and often have to perform or simulate only core function.
As you have prototypes ready, it's time to talk to people to gather feedback. Your goal is to evaluate product's usability and functionality. For that, you can run usability testing, A/B testing, or user acceptance testing. Your goal is to identify issues and challenges of various solutions so you can make necessary improvements.
The feedback you get from testers will then be used to identify issues that you need to address before the launch.
Based on your testing results from the prototyping phase, you can refine the product design.
We talk about improved usability, functionality, appeal - anything that makes your product desired in the eyes of potential customers.
Your goal is to come up with a product design that is easy-to-use and has a low learning curve. You may also look into introducing delighters and adding additional features.
This process can be repeated several times to improve your product design. At the end of every cycle, you will need to talk to people to get feedback. At the end, your product have to meet expectations of your audience.
Your product design is almost ready - it is time to get your documentation right.
Product designers need to create detailed specifications and instructions for the manufacturing phase. It will help to avoid any mistakes during the product production as mistakes there can be costly.
A good design documentation will also cover the quality control procedures since you need to ensure that your product is exactly as you planned before delivering it to your customers.
Manufacturing and production
The final stage of product design before your product meets the market is manufacturing.
Manufacturing and production can be done in-house or outsourced depending on your resources, complexity, and time constraints.
In this phase, you need to have a strict quality control in place described during the documentation phase to ensure that the end product is of good quality and meets your standards.
Launch and evaluation
Once you have your product ready, it is time to launch.
Your product is now available to customers via your distribution channels. However, your product design process doesn't stop there. You need to collect feedback from your customers regarding all phases of your business, including product and customer service.
For collecting feedback from customers, you will need again conduct surveys, 1-on-1 sessions, and measure customer satisfaction. This is a way to find how your product is performing and look for a ways to improve it.
Post-launch evaluation is an ongoing process that goes through the whole product life cycle.
Product design is an iterative process that can help you create successful products that are well-accepted by potential users.
The key to success is to strictly follow the goals of every stage and make sure that you have clear deliverables before proceeded with the next step.
It is important to acknowledge that product design process is just a beginning of your product journey. Even though you will evaluate your products' performance, your product design will become a part of your product management process and will depend on the framework you choose to follow.
It’s time to start understanding your customers
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