Quite a several people out there still have a notion that designing a product is a process of creating something that showcases beauty or art, which isn't absolutely accurate.
Aesthetics or art is actually part of the job, but it definitely isn’t the job.
Every Product design always comes with its own purpose, and it’s not about making something look good. It’s basically about solving a problem. Product Design that attains success, in the end, entails everything from research, definition, iteration, wire-framing, prototyping, small group testing, and real-world testing. It’s not one easy or straightforward process.
To help you get a deeper understanding of the decision-making process, we’ll explore in this blog the considerations or factors that influence design decisions at each stage of the product design process.
How great Product Design Decisions Are Made at each stage of the process:
1. Affinity Mapping: At the user research/ analysis stage.
2. Problem statement definition: At the definition stage.
3. User Journey Mapping & Sketching: At the ideation stage.
4. Clickable Prototype using a design system in Figma: At the prototyping stage.
5. Usability testing.
Let’s begin with,
- Affinity Mapping: At the User Research/ analysis stage.
A great product design process starts with user research and analysis.
The roadmap to arriving at the best solution at this stage (The first stage) of the product design process, begins with the selection of a method for user research.
There are various methods for user research:
- User interviews: This method can actually be time-consuming, but it’s more advantageous, in the fact that it gives you the chance to uncover insights by directly conversing with users as compared to just surveys.
- Online surveys: Surveys and questionnaires give you the chance to obtain a large volume of quantitative data in a short amount of time.
- Contextual inquiry: This method requires the observation of people and how they go about their daily tasks in their natural habitat. It gives room to really empathize with users as you can get a grasp of how they think and what they’re presently into.
- Market research: You can learn what’s working and what’s not by looking into you’re your competitors are doing and how they’re approaching similar problems.
After the user research method is chosen and the data from the research is collected, user analysis is carried out. This is best done by what we call “Affinity Mapping”. Affinity mapping allows you to generate insights from data by first grouping them into common themes and then using the grouped insight to influence your product decisions.
To make the best decisions at this stage of your product design process, you also need to get a grasp of who you’re designing for. This makes user personas an important part of the process. User persona mapping helps in the formulation of reliable and realistic representations of key audience segments when it comes to empathizing with users.
Here is an example,
- Problem statement definition: At the definition stage.
Once you have your insights from the data collected at the user research stage, you should by then have an understanding of the problem your users are currently facing. At this stage of the design process, you need to clearly define the problem that needs to be solved by utilizing what we call a problem statement definition. A problem statement sums up the user pain point or problem you look to resolve with product design. It is very essential in the product design process as it provides a clear goal for you and your team to work towards.
For the creation of your problem statement, you can always start with the ‘How Might We’ phrase. For example: How might we encourage people working from home to adopt better health and wellness habits?
- User Journey Mapping & Sketching: At the ideation stage.
Once your problem statement has been clearly stated and defined, you can then move unto the third stage of product design which is the ideation phase. Ideation is a time when team members brainstorm on a range of creative ideas and solutions that address the problem statement.
At this stage of product design, after much brainstorming and competitor analysis has been done, developing a user journey mapping is crucial to making the best design decision.
Competitor research & User Journey Mapping:
Competitors, especially those doing well in the market, are always a source of learning or where you can derive inspiration. In the analysis of various competitors, you should be on the lookout for design patterns — in their product offering, user experience, and visual design. You then use these patterns to map out your user journey.
Take for example you study two other products designed to tackle a similar problem as yours and find similarities in their user journey pattern, e.g. when a user comes on board they will,
- Sign up or log into the app
- Define their goals
- Receive a task to complete
- Perform the task and;
- Track their progress over time
You can choose to iterate on it and make a few changes or implement it.
Having your user journey mapped out simply makes it easier for all team members to understand and follow the user’s narrative, therefore prompting the design decisions that really meet users' pain points.
Sketch the solution:
Sketching is a valuable activity as it allows stakeholders (PMs, engineers, and customers) to get into a room and align on the vision. It's similar to wireframing.
When sketching, you should often refer back to your problem statement and user journey map to help you frame the problem space and define the scope of the work.
- Clickable Prototype using a design system in Figma: At the Prototyping stage.
Once you’re happy with your solution, you can then move to the stage where you use to design and prototyping tools such as Figma, Sketch and Invision or Adobe XD to create a clickable prototype.
Using a design system:
A design system is a collection of elements that can be combined and reused to build products. Using a design system is an effective way of speeding up your design workflow and it allows you to maintain consistency across your designs.
To create interactions and transition states between screens, connect them using nodes (i.e. the blue dots). You can specify the animations by editing the settings in Prototype > Interaction and Animation.
If using Figma, once you're done with the prototype, you can preview using Figma mirror.
- Usability Testing.
The last stage in product design that also serves as a determinant of the final design outcome is Usability Testing.
Usability testing is an important part of the design process as it allows us to get feedback from users during the ideation phase before anything gets built or shipped. It is just as crucial because it allows you to identify any usability issues upfront and effectively tackle them before you invest more time in developing the solution.
Crowning it all up,
The most important thing to remember when designing products is that you are ultimately designing a product for people to use. It's not about beauty, it's basically about the problem and how best to tackle it.
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