The Importance Of A Stellar Product Design Process

The Importance Of A Stellar Product Design Process

There’s something to be said about product design in the story of a successful product. You can find guides aplenty on how to create a development plan for your new product, but the question is, where does the product design element feature?

Let’s talk about design

Any designer can tell you that impeccable design is the key to any product’s success. With that in mind, surely product design should be front and centre of any development plan. One entrepreneur stated in this article, that four key principles have guided him with the launch of each product launch. They are:

  1. Prioritising customer convenience
  2. Surprising people with cool features or “time to cool”
  3. Thinking about lifecycle messaging
  4. Simplifying user experiences at every point

Each of these principles can be followed by any brand looking to push out a new product. But the theme that ties these principles together more tightly than anything else is the focus on the user. Everything goes back to their experience with the product and how it can be improved.

Fundamentals of product design

It can be tempting to consider product design and the process involved as one best left in the hands of the designers themselves. But actually, having a good understanding of the product design process, and helping it along is something every team should be part of.

Ultimately, product design comes down to its fundamental reasons for being. It’s an answer to a problem, an attempt to bridge a gap in the market. These common goals make it as important to the designers, as it is for say, the sales team.

Finding your own product design process is something that will be unique to you, and your product. But that’s not to say that there aren’t some central ideas that will run through almost any solid design process. To demonstrate, it may well look something like this, as outlined by a seasoned developer:

  1. Defining a vision and strategy
  2. Investing in extensive product research
  3. Analysing user experiences
  4. Brainstorming ideas
  5. Designing the product
  6. Testing and validating the product
  7. Engaging a post-launch strategy

This comprehensive guide to typical product design process shows just how involved the end-to-end process is. And notably, the design phase happens towards the final stages, rather than at the beginning.

Best laid plans do work

This focus on the process involved in designing a product is called Product Design Process, or PDP. If you’ve created a solid plan it will be both multidisciplinary and user-centric. Written down, as in the example above, it will reveal itself as intricate. In simple terms, however, each step will fall into one of four stages. They are research, ideation, execution, and technical assessment.

The reason why so many development teams, whether in-house or agency-based, follow plans like this to the letter, is because they keep products on track. They also maintain a firm focus on the user. Without keeping the user at the heart, it’s very easy to lose sight of the nature of the problem the product is supposed to solve.

Be like Apple!

It has to be said, Apple has something of a Wizkid status in the tech world. To get products so right, from such an early stage, they have to have some sort of secret weapon under their belt, right?

Apple’s Product Development Process is a rigid, tried and tested formula they’ve employed, tweaked and perfected throughout the decades. Yes, it might well be one of the most successful design processes ever implemented. It also contains more than a few pearls of wisdom any self-respecting designer could learn from.

There’s another thing that Apple habitually do. They keep their winning secrets under wraps. That means an intricate look at their process is still, even post-Steve Jobs, off the table. What we can say is this. They have a strict PDP which is honoured through the business. Prototypes are placed in high-security areas; design teams are cut off from the rest of the business when they’re in full flow to avoid getting side-tracked by day-to-day happenings. Now when we say, “be like Apple”, that’s not to say that copying their ideology on points like this is the way forward. Instead, it’s more about finding what works for you and fully respecting the design process.

Building something they’ll love

So, where does this leave us? Constructing a cool, Apple-worthy Product Design Process is one thing. It could impress the board, or your clients if you’re an agency. But actually, the main thing to keep sight of is the people we’re creating products for in the first place.

Yes, we’ve talked about user-centric design. We’ve talked about remembering the answer people’s pain points. This isn’t just a theory to carry through your PDP. It’s the reason for the plan existing in the first place. That’s exactly why direct contact with the user’s throughout the process is so important. It will keep you focused and your feet on the ground. Whatever’s going on in the studio at the time.

It’s as simple as that

If you haven’t already, it’s time to create your Product Design Process. If you have one, be critical, go back through it and check if it’s fit for purpose. And if you’re a brand that employs an agency, get under the skin of their PDP and see what returns it’s set to offer.

Great design equals great products. It’s as simple as that. But that’s where the simplicity ends. To perfect a product and create something that will wow, delight, answer pain points and deliver the right solution for the people you’re making it for, you need a comprehensive plan. Take inspiration from those who are doing it right by all means. But when all’s said and done, perfecting the perfect process is as individual as the product you’re working so hard to create.


Andrew Machin
Andrew Machin

With over 15 years’ experience in web design and digital marketing Andrew has helped many brands, both in the UK and US, create exceptional digital experiences, from websites to in-store retail experiences, such as John Lewis, Jet2, Virgin Holidays and Interflora.

Through the success of such projects Andrew has received accolades that include high-profile awards that span innovation, strategy, design and results such as the Dadi Grand Prix Award and the Digital Impact Award for Innovation.

This experience has led to Andrew judging digital design awards, been featured in .net magazine, lecturing at Leeds university and speak at seminars and conferences across the UK.

Follow Andrew @The_Machin

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