First impressions count – especially when it comes to digital products. That’s why brands like Uber, Apple, Airbnb, and Google spend so much time perfecting their product design. Here are a few things you should know about effective digital product design.
Table of contents:
- What is product design?
- Business goals
- Easier to find investors
- Verifying product-market fit
- Accelerating time-to-market
- Updating your live product’s UX
- Rapid prototyping & design validation
- Building the product
- Launching the product
- How to select the right product design team?
Did you know that 94% of first impressions are mainly design-related? This clearly shows the importance of effective digital product design. Companies like Uber, Google, Apple, and Airbnb owe a big part of their success to prioritizing design in their product development.
In the following article, we’re going to take a look at the importance of product design for businesses. We’ll also take you through the digital product design steps (from concept to market launch), and will tell you how to choose the right product design team.
Let’s start off with a question:
What is product design?
Product design is an approach to product development followed by designers that takes into account both user needs and business objectives. Its goal is to create a product that delivers value to customers and is financially viable. The key to effective product design is evaluating your target audience’s needs continuously, and adjusting the product accordingly.
A wrong, though common, assumption is that product design focuses primarily on aesthetics and usability. In reality, it extends beyond these two spheres, as we discuss below.
The elements of product design
Digital product design includes three main elements, these are:
1. Business goals
The ultimate goal of any digital product is to support company objectives. In most cases, this means that the product needs to generate revenue – either directly or indirectly.
Let’s take Facebook, for instance. While they don’t charge people for using their platform, they found a different way to monetize their user base – advertisements. The entire product is built around making users stay on the platform all day long to boost engagement rates. The reason for this is that the higher the engagement rates, the more attractive the platform is for advertisers. This is a great example of how the product’s UX, branding, and interactions are all designed to align with the common goal – profitability.
Let’s assume there are two digital products, both of which offer the exact same features, for the exact same price. One of them is visually appealing, while the other isn’t. Most people will choose the first option – and there’s science to back it up.
According to Nielsen Norman Group, this so-called “aesthetic-usability effect refers to users’ tendency to perceive attractive products as more usable. People tend to believe that things that look better will work better — even if they aren’t actually more effective or efficient”.
That said, you’ll likely notice that the design community online strongly distinguishes between UI – that is, the visuals of an app – and UX – which relates to product usability. We discuss this in the next point.
Usability is the term used to explain how well and efficiently a user can achieve a specific goal by using a product or service. In a digital product design team, it’s the domain of UX specialists – both designers and researchers.
Why does it matter?
To put it simply, if you fail to deliver a high degree of usability, your product will likely fail. Considering that 25% of U.S. users only log into an app once, you should leave usability up to the experts.
Now that we’ve discussed the main elements of digital product design, let us take a look at why investing in product design pays off for businesses.
The importance of product design for businesses
Below, we discuss a few reasons why product design matters for businesses.
1. Easier to find investors
The competition for investors’ attention is fierce. In order to increase the chances of acquiring funding, you need to find a way to make your idea stand out from the crowd and make it feel ‘tangible’. This can be achieved by creating mockups. By working with your product design team, you can validate your market hypotheses through usability research. You can also have your UX and UI designers create mockups that visualize the intended product and its core features. This leads us to the next benefit.
2. Verifying product-market fit
Product design lets you pitch your idea, even before a single line of code is written. Dropbox, for instance, released a 3-minute video that demonstrated their core value proposition. It also showed how easy it would be for users to share files. The result?
The online community fell head over heels for the idea. Within a few hours, their beta signup waitlist grew from 5,000 to 75,000 people. By making the least possible effort, Dropbox founders were able to instantaneously verify the product-market fit.
3. Accelerating time-to-market
After you’ve conducted research and shown mockups to potential users, you will be able to shortlist the features that should make it into your MVP. Rapid prototyping and idea validation will keep you from getting stuck on continuous refinements.
There’s a lot of truth to LinkedIn Co-Founder’s famous saying: “If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late”.
It’s worth considering working with an experienced product design team to gain a fresh perspective on your idea and speed up your time-to-market.
4. Updating your live product’s UX
Prioritizing product design is important not just for startups in the pre-MVP and post-launch phases. It’s also beneficial for up-and-running products that want to remain competitive on the market.
Product design is an ongoing process and your product’s UX should be continuously improved. If you feel that your solution’s design is outdated, work with a product design team who will adjust it to new UX standards.
Digital product design steps
With the importance of product design explained, let us now take a look at the product design steps.
Your idea needs to be researched and validated before you start working on the design – it needs to stand a chance on the market. Bear in mind that your project manager or product owner might lack the skills or experience to conduct advanced research. Here’s where you’ll benefit from working with user experience researchers. To ensure that you have all the necessary insights, your UX specialists should use methods such as user persona development, interviews, journey mapping, empathy mapping, customer discovery type research, and surveys.
2. Rapid prototyping & design validation
As mentioned earlier in this article, rapid prototyping is a method your UX and UI designers can apply to create low-fidelity mockups of your product. It’s a simple, yet credible method that helps verify the product-market fit.
Apart from rapid prototyping, you can use design validation methods such as A/B testing, usability testing, or collecting qualitative and quantitative feedback on the prototypes. As a result, you’ll know what features to prioritize in your MVP.
3. Building the product
With the key features clear, you can proceed to build the product MVP. Here’s when you should start working on more sophisticated visuals and interactions for your high fidelity prototypes. Designers should provide developers with all the necessary assets and documentation needed to translate the designs into a functional product. Depending on the software partner you work with, you can develop your product in an Agile approach, or agree on a fixed delivery and fixed price model.
With all of the above in mind, don’t forget about the mobile UX experience! In the U.S., mobile versions of products are often marginalized, which is a huge usability mistake given the number of smartphone users.
4. Launching the product
The weeks that precede the market launch should be focused on verifying the product stability and fixing any potential issues. After the launch, you should monitor the product performance and adjust the design and software continuously. This will allow you to ensure the absolute best user experience. Remember: digital product design isn’t a one-off effort, it’s a cyclical process.
How to select the right product design team?
Now, let us take a look at your product design development options. Depending on your needs and timeline, you can:
- build an in-house team (which can be very expensive, as you need to pay monthly salaries),
- work with freelancers (which might be risky, as freelancers are likely to be working on several projects simultaneously),
- or partner up with an experienced company like Freeport Metrics.
Throughout the years, at Freeport Metrics, we’ve worked on multiple digital products. We work primarily with companies operating in the U.S. market. We can support you at every step of the digital product journey. From helping you validate your product concepts, through supporting you in the design and software development phases, all the way through to market launch.
Digital product design is essential for any business with an online presence. Among others, it helps you acquire investors, verify your product-market fit, and accelerate your time-to-market.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that product design isn’t a one-off effort. In order for you to remain competitive on the market, it must be a continuous process, which revolves around advocating for business goals, aesthetics, and usability.