A well-structured design process makes the work of a designer easier, simplifies communication with the client and with the developers, and allows you to create a truly innovative and high-quality product and meet all deadlines.
In this article, we will analyze the essential steps of the product design process that will help you come up with a successful design solution.
Important stages of product design
Before discussing the stages it’s important to mention that designing a product is an ongoing process (not linear!). And it’s OK to return, rethink, refine, or completely change some ideas and design solutions.
With this in mind let’s start learning mail steps you’ll probably have to come through.
Understand the essence of a project
The first thing to start with when you receive a new project is to research. Try to learn as much as possible about the client’s project, business, and industry.
The most efficient way would be to ask questions. This is how you can fully understand what your client requests and expects from you. When working on a project, you need to constantly keep feedback with the customer and make the whole process as transparent as possible.
As well, it is essential to study the market and competitors to understand trends and tendencies.
Get to know your target audience
Obviously, you design a product not for the product owner and not for your portfolio on the dribble, but primarily for its future users. Therefore, it is important to clearly define its target audience. As a rule, this is done by conducting user interviews and defining the main buyer personas.
Buyer personas define the main categories of the target audience and their interactions with the product. Creating buyer personas you give them a name, photo, personal characteristics and place them in a real situation. This allows you to better understand the user, their behavior, and requests, which faster leads to specific ideas and solutions.
Ideate and test your ideas
Ideating means creating assumptions about what the user really wants, what difficulties they are experiencing, and what features and design solutions can help them solve their problems.
Ideas need to be tested in order to be sure that you understand the task and user needs correctly, and do not waste time on something that seemed important to you, but is actually pointless.
The most effective method to come up with numerous ideas is to brainstorm. This method requires working in a group of experts where each participant thinks of possible solutions to a problem by expressing ideas.
After you’ve got enough assumptions, they need to be tested in a focus group. It is worth breaking the ideas into small questions and creating a questionnaire that can be sent to the target audience.
Create customer journey map and user flows
Both customer journey maps and user flows are step-by-step descriptions of how your typical users interact with a potential product. But while user flow represents the path of a user from point A to point B in an app/website, the customer journey map deals with emotions users have during this interaction.
As a rule, 1-2 scenarios are done for each type of user. They represent the path of the user from the beginning of interaction with the interface to the achievement of the goal. Write one scenario for each of your user personas, describe how you imagine their ideal interaction with the product.
Start communicating with developers
At this point, you have a comprehensive understanding of the product that you create, you understand the target audience, their needs, behavior you have a detailed table of functions and a customer journey map. Now you can start the design itself. But above all, this is the moment when it is worth involving developers in the process.
It is extremely important in order not to be disappointed in the later phases of the project. Moreover, the gradual introduction of developers into the project gives them a complete understanding of the product and eliminates misunderstandings at the development stage.
Make a mood board
Moodboard is a collection of visual materials designed to convey a certain style.
Take some time to discuss it with the client. The client needs to understand the direction in which you are going to work and the basic design principles that you will use. This will reduce the risk of disagreement with the customer and empty work.
Build a wireframe
A wireframe is a basic structure around which interface elements are built.
When creating a wireframe, you need to think – how else can you solve the problem? You need to be able to look into the very essence of the project and understand which framework will actually solve the problem beautifully.
Our personas, ideas, and scenarios will greatly help you with this. Decide on the most important interface function, the most important scenario, and try to start building a framework based on them, gradually adding the rest of the remaining functions and scenarios.
A good framework is already a big part of the design. The better the framework, the easier it will be for it to create a design language since a non-standard framework or idea will already dictate some non-standard design decisions.
The prototype represents basic layout with main functions and design elements of your future product.
Prototyping solves several problems:
- Testing the idea. Does your idea really work and is understandable, correct mistakes on the go.
- User interface test and detection of logical errors.
- Visual presentation to the customer. It will be easier for the customer to respond to an interactive prototype than to static pictures.
- A visual guide for developers.
Create a style guide
The design process ends with the creation of a detailed style guide, where you carefully put together all the interface elements, fonts, colors, and everything that the developers will use as a reference. High-quality project development depends largely on the quality of the style guide. You need to carefully check if there are any errors and if all states are described.
Testing allows you to find and fix bugs, thereby reducing risk and improving product quality. It also checks the places of the user interface where the user can make a mistake or misunderstand the program output, as well as the system’s resistance to malicious actions.
To sum up
In fact, no project can ever be done by following this or some other predefined process one by one. In every project, there are always situations when the process has to be rebuilt. Therefore, you need to accumulate experience, understand the importance and complexity of all stages of a product design, and be able to react to circumstances in a way that does not harm the project.