Great product design starts with a solid design process

Egle Venclovaite
Head of Design

Remember Google Glass? When first unveiled in 2012, it was hailed as the next big thing in tech.

It was all over the news, it captured the public imagination and it even popped up on the runway at New York Fashion Week. But Google never managed to convert the early buzz into actual sales. Firstly, there were justifiable concerns about privacy. There was also the eye-watering price point for something that people didn’t want or need. 

The writing was on the wall once ‘Glasshole’ became a popular term and Glass became an unwanted intrusion in social situations. Glass ultimately failed because it wasn’t clear who or what it was for. 

It doesn’t matter how innovative a product is if it doesn’t provide value for the user. Good product design isn’t about solving a problem, it’s about solving the right problem.

Design for the right problem

As part of our product development process, a design team works closely with clients to identify and prioritise the problems before moving on to identify possible solutions. Many companies skip this part of the process in a rush to solution development. According to a McKinsey report on the business value of design, over 40% of companies don’t talk to their end users during development.

Why is this a problem? It’s easy to make incorrect assumptions during product development, especially at the beginning. Teams jump to conclusions, then jump to solutions. This happens when they don’t investigate the problem space sufficiently or validate it. A poor solution to the right problem can be better than a good solution to the wrong problem.

Without UX design, we run the risk of developing for the wrong problem and having a solution that nobody wants. UX helps to ask the right questions, validate problem-solution fit and find out from users if it's the problem worth solving.  

How to design for the right problem 

Through design-led workshops, user research, testing and persona mapping, we can better understand the problem space, and users’ behaviour, needs and motivations. We can get early feedback from concepts, which can help avoid redevelopment in the future. Such design techniques help to clearly define and articulate customer problems, identify competitor products, provide early user feedback, learn about user behaviours and challenge assumptions. 

Find the right solution 

Larger companies like Google can afford to solve the wrong problem, fail and try again. Many smaller organisations don’t have that luxury. A survey of 106 C-suite executives found that 85% of organisations agree they’re poor at problem diagnostics, and 87% strongly agreed that this weakness carried significant costs. Fewer than one in 10 companies were unaffected by this issue. 

We apply the latest design techniques and methodologies to help find the right solution to the right problem and validate problem-solution fit. Successful solutions require successful teams and UX design is crucial - not only to create exceptional experiences but also to reduce risks, and time spent on development and redevelopment. 

The slow lift problem illustrates the benefits of properly understanding a problem. Imagine a slow lift in a building is frustrating tenants and causing complaints. The problem? The lift needs to be faster. The owner could replace it but that’s costly and disruptive. 

What if we reframed the problem as the wait for the lift is annoying? Now the solution is to make the wait feel shorter. The owner could install a mirror beside the lift, play music or even add a hand sanitiser. This could distract tenants while they wait. Reframing a problem can help identify cheaper, faster, or even better solutions. 

Following good design principles can save time and money. A McKinsey report on the business value of design revealed that businesses that embrace design generate 32% more revenue. Invision found that companies with a high level of design maturity benefit in terms of product usability, customer satisfaction, revenue and cost savings. 

How to find the right design solution 

Design tools like wireframes, user journeys or brainstorming help to find the right solution before development starts. As the old saying goes, measure twice and cut once. 

Starting with wireframes, user journeys and information architecture (IA) can help push usability to the forefront before committing time and money to development. Such design tools will also help make strategic recommendations while ensuring the product is aligned with user needs. 

Brainstorming is a helpful tool to see different perspectives and generate new ideas. Running short experiments will elevate and optimise user experiences - these can also be backed by data.  

Solve the problem the right way

The ill-fated Amazon Fire phone is an example of not making the product that you set out to make. Jeff Bezos declared that Amazon wanted to “build a better phone for our most engaged users”. Unfortunately, the Amazon Fire lacked the innovative features or clever design to justify its premium price. The phone bombed and Amazon took a $170 million hit. 

So where did it go wrong? It didn’t have popular apps like Google Maps and YouTube, and other standard features were awkward to use. Plus, its differentiating features were four front-facing cameras, 3D graphics, and a barcode scanner that helped you find things on Amazon. It provided solutions that no one asked for at a price that no one wanted to pay. 

They set out to create a phone that could go toe-to-toe with the iPhone and establish Amazon as a coveted brand. What does this example tell us? It’s not enough to have a defined goal or to understand a customer’s problem. Good execution is just as important as understanding the problem. It doesn’t matter if you understand the problem if you don’t solve it in the right way. 

How to improve product development

Adopting a systematic approach to design helps to produce a product that customers want to use but also one which can be more readily developed and scaled up. When it comes to execution, we need to think about how to make it consistent and systematic, to accelerate future developments and the time it takes to develop a feature. 

Define success metrics: We always recommend spending some time figuring out and defining success metrics of a new feature or a product - it helps determine focus and strategy. It shows if a product or a new feature meets user needs and ensures the product development stays on track. 

Create a design system: Design systems establish rules of visual elements and interactions to promote consistency, clarity and quality. Well-defined design systems save development time. It is an investment but it allows for faster long-term growth, which provides an undeniable competitive advantage to businesses.  

Create high-fidelity designs and prototypes: They can resemble the product look and feel to simulate interactions with the product ahead of development. 

Design is more than aesthetics

Good product design meets an end user’s needs by finding a creative solution to a specific problem. Some people think that design is only there to make things look pretty. It can make a product look better, but good design will also help to make better products. 

Join us for a design-led workshop

We offer a range of end-to-end product development services from business analysis to application build and support. We often recommend starting with a design-led workshop to help explore key areas during product development. We also offer UX services for products that are already developed, should you need to accelerate your roadmap or want to take an existing product to the next level. 

We’re flexible so we can tailor workshops to your specific needs. Contact us today to talk about your design and development needs.


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