When you create beautiful interfaces and add animations to bring a delight factor to the product, that is not product design, but instead UI design. Product design encompasses much more. It is a holistic process that considers the entire user experience, business goals of the organization, and a great UI. They are polished products curated with experiential and functional usability.
These days, roles like interaction designer, user experience designer, and UI/UX designer are being used interchangeably with a product designer, even though the actual job may not consist of working on business goals or end-to-end experiences. To make it clear, a product designer is still a problem solver. The difference is that they have additional responsibilities related to identifying the right market for products and validating them with the right users, user experience, and user interface design.
Design Thinking Mindset
Like other design fields, product design also has design thinking at its core foundation. Building a solution involves five essential stages - empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test.
Starting with a new project for a client or a new product in an organization helps immensely to approach it with the design thinking method. As a product designer, some other goals that you might have apart from UI design will be analyzing the market for opportunities, analyzing product metrics, and understanding business goals through tools like data science.
The Product Design Process
There is no limitation to the methods that can be utilized in Product Design. Depending on the budget that has been allotted to the project, the design team may or may not want to opt for extensive UX research. Nevertheless, enough UX research should be carried out to understand the target audience and validate any assumptions that have been taken into account in the first stage of empathizing with the user. Lesser the assumptions, the better the design. It is highly encouraged to use an agile approach of following the design thinking process. It is good to fail fast and learn from the feedback when designing a product instead of shipping out a faulty product to your consumers.
A commonly used framework is the double diamond approach. As the name suggests, two diamond-shaped paths are used, with the first diamond containing the discover and define phases and the second diamond containing the develop and deliver phases. Once again, this is a non-linear process where all phases can run simultaneously to avoid delays and to facilitate feedback from one stage to the other throughout the design cycle.
Generally, as we discussed earlier, the first step will consist of qualitative and quantitative research. Not only is this important to know your users better, but a product team always benefits from the competitor analysis, market opportunity analysis, user research, user interviews, and surveys that nudge the brainstorming in the right direction. Since we are not just focusing on UX design, market research that affects business decisions must also be taken into account.
The definition stage follows the research stage, wherein user personas are created with all the research carefully jotted down in pain points, motivations, and goals of the user. If you have already seen user personas, you might ask why we give names and pictures to these hypothetical users. Humans tend to empathize with someone better if they have a sense of identification. Providing names and going as far as describing their personal life lets us be in the user's shoes and understand the world from their perspective. The definition or define stage also utilizes methods like customer journey mapping and empathy mapping to describe the problem statement and user goals better.
Step 3 is where the brainstorming for the solution begins, and all the findings from the first two stages are used to inform decisions here. User stories which say, “As a (user), I want to (goal) so I can (benefit)” are very beneficial in orienting the product design process towards feature building. Building the information architecture, the sitemap, and wireframing are all parts of this phase. It is important to remember not to get too caught up in giving the user numerous features - we want to provide them with a product that solves their problem, not the controls of the cockpit of an airplane. Use an easy wireframing tool that can be used to decide the overall layout of the product, get feedback from stakeholders, and even test it out with users. Wireframes can be low-fidelity or high-fidelity, depending on the level of feedback you’re seeking.
After that, it is time to get into the most liked parts of the design process - UI design and prototyping. Read more about good UI design on MockFlow’s blog. Prototypes are not exactly meant to be the final product, but a replication of it so that testing is more fun and authentic. As we have said several times in this article, feedback from every stage is fuel to the decision-making for every other step. The product is then developed and tested very heavily to make sure any bugs that surface can be fixed.
There could be times when your development team has different ideas, and your design team has other ideas, while the management has entirely different ideas. Collaboration at every step within the group to stay on the same page is as important as collaborating with users. Designers should make their decisions after hearing everyone out. If something doesn’t seem right, it should be explained logically, and everyone should give their input on it.
Design is never done, or, in other words, it is always evolving. Even after the product is launched, metrics like retention and bounce rates are monitored to get feedback and iterate again for a better version.
Wireframing tools like MockFlow or Balsamiq, or just pen and paper, can help you make good UI layouts before you begin designing the interface itself. Using a white-boarding tool like Miro can also help you jot down the various points during the brainstorming session and use it to funnel the ideas through to the next stages.
Thanks to the multitude of tools available online, there are specific ones to create your target user personas (Xtensio), create sitemaps (SlickPlan), and many more. Or, you can get all these done within a single tool with MockFlow.
Choosing the right tool, primarily an easy-to-use tool, will be very effective throughout the process. MockFlow, with the Design spaces and a plethora of in-built tools that cater to almost every stage of Product Design, helps you throughout the process without having to switch between different apps and keeps you focussed on your task. From brainstorming on a whiteboard to building your final wireframes and taking it further to the final validation stage, you can get everything done right inside MockFlow.
Whether visualizing your ideas or designing the perfect product with your team, MockFlow has all the tools you need to accelerate your Design Process. We built design spaces to provide an end-to-end solution for your product design process. With integrations of other tools like G-Drive, Slack, Jira, and MS Teams, your workflow will be seamless with MockFlow. Try it for free today and leverage the power of an innovative product design tool.