Product Design Process: 4 Steps To Design A Product People Will Love

Although many people think the aim of a product design process is to create something cool and good-looking, this comprises just the tip of the iceberg. Product design primarily wants to help us understand people’s pains, and create a product that will help them solve these problems. Thus we can create useful products.

Planning the exact steps which the users go through when they use a product plays a crucial role. Make sure to create products easy to use, otherwise people will use them once or twice without becoming engaged. Product designers mainly try to find the needs of the product’s target group and their solutions.

Be it a new product development process or redesigning an existing solution, here at our UX company, we always follow a four-step product design strategy to solve this mind-breaker.

In short, the 4 steps of the UX design process:

  1. Understand people’s pains and needs: product discovery
  2. Share the findings with the whole product team
  3. Brainstorm on possible solution ideas and determine what to build
  4. Design the product and iterate: test and modify it until it works in the hands of our users, too.

The ideal product design process can vary depending on different factors, such as the project scope, the size of the company, budget, deadlines, etc. In a good design process, the business requirements meet the user needs.

We, at UX studio, do not have a crystal clear and always followable guide for design processes. We encourage an agile style of work, working in design sprints, but we are flexible. Should you need help with product design, fill out our contact form and let’s discuss how we can help you.

Here is how our product design process looks like at UX studio:

the double diamond product design process
The Double Diamond product design process

The Double Diamond is a product design process with four phases: Discover, Define, Develop, and Deliver. The product design process starts with a “diverging phase” of the diamond, a problem, and topic discovery. We do not define anything yet, but we step back a little and open our minds to new insights.

The second part of the diamond — Develop and Deliver — mainly feeds from the product discovery findings. However, the Discover-Develop tracks can also run simultaneously; so this is not a linear process.

Let’s look into these four steps in more detail to understand how this product design process works. Some examples will show the importance of each step in real-life situations.

Step 1: Product discovery – what problem we want to solve and for whom

Product discovery is the preliminary phase of every human-centered product design process, and its purpose is to base the product idea on real demand.

Carrying out research is important not just at the beginning, but during the project as well. Validating ideas helps to avoid burning money and waste of time.

There are two product discovery activities we’ll be looking into a bit more:

  • Workshops (e.g. kick-off workshops);
  • Exploratory research; user research
    (Market research findings are also important. We don’t do this one, but if you’re curious about the differences between user and market research, check out this article.);

1.Kick-off workshops 

Meet the client, understand the current state of the project. To create the first draft of our roadmap, we start every project with a kick-off workshop that usually takes about one to two days. At this time, we get to know the company, its processes, and roles and gather all information we can about the project.

Kick-off workshop techniques frequently used by us:

  • Assumption matrix: We collect the stakeholders’ beliefs about different topics, find the most important, high-risk “leap of faith assumptions” so we can validate these with research and find out if they’re real.
  • Persona and/or Jobs-To-Be-Done workshop: Assumptive personas are our best guesses on who will use the product and why. It helps to recruit for interviews and for the client to empathize with their future users.
  • Customer journey workshop: These workshops help to get a view on how people navigate through the product or service. 
  • Value Proposition workshop: We map out the perception of the product values identified by users.  We also validate assumptions for each customer segment. This provides vision and guides for the future design.
  • Brand Vision, Mission, and Values: The best way to reveal the brand’s vision is to ask the key personnel why it was created. For every answer they provide, keep asking why. 

2. Exploratory research

Finding the right solution to the problem makes up much of the product’s success. In order to design a product which helps a lot of people, you should know their pains.

Choose a group to be the target audience and get to know them by doing exploratory research: interviews, online research, diary studies, or fieldwork.

Experts most commonly conduct interviews for product discovery. Talking to a product’s target group can provide a lot of useful information. Ask mainly open-ended questions:

  • First, find out their problems. What are the top three things that challenge you in this area? What causes the biggest headache regarding the given topic? 
  • Then prioritize these pain points. What takes the most of time? What takes the most of money?  What is the most important regarding the topic?.
  • Last, discover current solutions. Please, recall the last time the problem appeared. How did it happen? What solutions currently deal with the problem?

However, do not ask directly about motivation or solutions to pains. Assume the task of finding the solution. Do not ever ask “would you use it?”, “do you like it?”, “do you need it?”, “would you pay for it?”, these questions serve no purpose.

People are not able to consciously provide real answers to these questions.

Just put yourself in the interviewee’s shoes. What are the questions you would be able to answer?  Ask those questions.

Do five or six interviews at a time (of each segment defined). The first round usually suffices for an overview, so evaluate the results and find the questions for the lacking information. After this, do follow-up interviews to dig deeper into certain topics.

Product Design Process: User's Needs

The research takes time, but it will provide great business opportunities. These research techniques can also validate assumptions about a given good idea.

  • Semi-structured User interview is the method we use frequently in the discovery phase. We recruit interviewees from each segment/target group. Our researchers evaluate the previous results before each interview and iterate the questions when needed. 10-15 interviews are usually enough to move forward.
  • Field research is based on observing user behavior in their environment. 
  • Competitive research. Data about successful competitors helps to come up with feature ideas and reposition the client’s product.

Step 2: Share your findings with the team

After getting to know the audience, finding their problems to solve, and doing an initial competitor analysis, the time comes to sum up the lessons.

Especially in larger organizations, it is important to spread the word about findings, organize stakeholder buy-in, and get everyone working on the product on the same page.

Don’t forget that designers do not only “stand-alone”; they serve an important communication role in our organizations. Connect the customers, the business, and product development.

As Benjamin Franklin famously said:

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn”.

So, get everyone on the same page by getting them involved.

In our workshops, we share our research results with the participants and then let them come up with the conclusions. Everyone likes it when their ideas affect things, so we give them that feeling.

We usually use two well-known tools – but sometimes more – user personas and customer journeys. Personas help us approach our target audience and segments.

The user personas can hang on the wall to be before our eyes at all times. For this reason, many designers create poster types of personas, as seen below.

Product Design Process: Personas

Customer journeys or experience maps provide a holistic view of the service and layout of the important aspects to pay attention to.

As the output, the customer journey diagram basically lays out a big table. The columns of the table represent different phases or steps a customer goes through.

These can be unique in every project, but most customer journeys contain three phases: before, during, and after the usage of our product.

Product Design Process: Customer Journey

You can get familiar with three well-known UX workshop tools:

  • personas;
  • customer journey;
  • product strategy; 

These tools can help develop a common understanding of the product and users among team members.

But even more awaits! These tools serve many purposes, like to identify worthless app features. We did exactly that with the help of the customer journey. 

At this point, we should have a condensed brief of research findings, a strategy, and a clear idea about what problem we want to solve.

Step 3: Brainstorm solutions, define, and prioritize features.

When every team member is aware of the findings, let the brainstorming sessions begin!

The more people involved, the more ideas will come out. Try to figure out what the product will be and which features it will contain. Search for features that will solve your audience’s problems and will enable you to extend your product’s life cycle. Try to find as many feature ideas as you can.

Based on the market conditions, your resources, or some validation tests, you have to choose some of these ideas and write a plan about how you will bring them to the market. This is how you form your product strategy.

The product strategy will contain the list of the features you will build first. With that feature list, you can start the design phase.

Step 4: Prototype and iterate

After you have the feature list, try to come up with many possible design ideas to each feature.

First, create some quick hand-drawn paper sketches. Most commonly these sketches require line drawings and rough text only. Then, you can build wireframes and clickable prototypes for the app.

The goal of prototyping is to create something quickly and test it with real people from your target group. Do user tests and iterate on the prototype. You will get important feedback and you can make sure people will understand your product.

Low-fidelity, interactive prototype for testing

After testing the product and modifying your protos, then finally get to the pixel-perfect, colorful, detailed design plans.

Read more about the sketching techniques step-by-step, from idea to final design in a separate blog post.

While sketching and prototyping the entire online fashion platform, we encountered a lot of usability issues. That’s OK. The time has come to face them.

The new community area features like the influencer’s search filters, cross-promotion campaigns, or internal chats arose most recently. No other influencer marketing platform had them.

From the placement on the navigation to the influencers card design, user tests led to a lot of changes during the process.

Product Design Process: User Tests

The story of product design never ends: we continuously do research to discover customer pain points and build prototypes and test the new prototypes to solve them.

Thanks to our product design process and expertise, we managed to achieve a huge success for our client. The travel mobile app redesign resulted in a 100% increase in bookings through the mobile app.

If you are searching for the most suitable UX agency, contact us, and let’s see how our UX experts can help you with your current challenge.

Product design process takeaways

To create useful products, designers need to find the audience’s pain points. Here at UX studio, we always follow a four-step product design process:

  • Understand people’s pains and needs: product discovery
  • Share findings with the whole product team
  • Brainstorm on possible solution ideas and determine what to build
  • Design a prototype and iterate: test and modify until it works in the hands of users, too.

Launching the MVP product doesn’t mean the job is done, and the product design process is over. Testing and designing should be an ongoing, iterative process that is the key to improve the product and bring it to success. 

Follow along with the metrics; get client feedback, use analytic tools and heatmaps (such as Google Analytics, Countly, Hotjar), do A/B testing, and measure the success of your choices. 

The main takeaways perhaps are to make your process user-centered, apply design thinking, and execute it as a non-linear, iterated process. Do user research whenever you can to be able to design with the people, not just for them.

To help in the design process, we wrote about how to design screens.

Have any experience or tips about the product design process? We would love to hear about it in the comments below!

Take the next step to improve your product UX

UX studio has successfully handled 250+ collaborations with the clients worldwide. 

Is there anything we can do for you at this moment? Get in touch with us and let’s discuss your current challenges. 

Our experts would be happy to assist with the UX strategy, product and user research, UX/UI design.

Anett Illés

Online marketer at UX studio.
Foreign-language learner, yogini, dog owner, volunteer.
I have an incurable case of wanderlust and a desire to help others.