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 also plays a crucial role. Make products easy to use – because otherwise, people will use them once or twice without becoming at all engaged.

Product Design Process: Four Steps To Make Sure They Will Love What You Build

Product designers mainly try to find the needs of the product’s target group and their solutions. Here at UX studio, we always follow a four-step product design process to solve this mind-breaker:

  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.

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

Product Design Process: Iceberg

Step One: Product Discovery

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

So to build a useful product, know those future customers. Choose a group to be the target audience and get to know them a bit by doing some research: interviews, online research, diary studies or field work. It takes time, but it will provide great business opportunities. These research techniques can also validate assumptions about a given good idea.

People most commonly interview 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 top three things challenge us in this area? / What causes the biggest headache regarding the given topic?),
  • Then prioritize these pain points (What takes the most time? / What takes the most money? / What ranks most important regarding the topic?),
  • Last, discover current solutions (Please detail the last actual example when 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?”, because these serve no purpose. People do not think consciously and conscientiously enough to provide real answers to these 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

An example of a digital product called StyleLike clearly indicates this step’s importance. An influencer marketing platform for fashion brands, it connects influencers with fashion brands to launch campaigns. We interviewed 16 influencers, getting to know them better from day to day. We asked them about their pain points, fears, and desires.

And we realized something we had no clue about before the interviews … all the interviewees asked us if we could connect them with other influencers. So we asked them why they wanted to do so and we realized that they were lonely and needed a real community. We added a social feature to help them get in touch with other influencers. With it, they could chat with each other, participate in campaigns together, etc. Because we found our target group’s pain points and they liked the solution, the application succeeded in the end.

Product Design Process: Product Discovery - StyleLike

Want to dig deeper? Read another example about how we found a niche market with interviewing within a month in our previous blog post.

Step Two: Get your team together and share your findings

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, this phase ranks very highly in importance due to the need 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”; we serve an important communication role in our organizations. Connect the customers, the business, and the 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 when their ideas affect things, so we give them that feeling.

We usually use two well-known tools – but sometimes more – 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 about service and lay out 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, and product strategy in our previous blog post. Using these can help develop a common understanding about the product and users among team members.

But even more awaits! These tools can function for many purposes, like to identify worthless app features. We did exactly that with the help of customer journey. Check it out in the blog post above!

Step Three: Brainstorm on solutions

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

The more people involved, the more ideas will result. Try to figure out what the product itself will be and which features will contain. Search features which will solve your audience’s problems. Try to find as many possible 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.

It will contain the list of the features you will build first. With that feature list you can start the design phase.

Read more about how product design process fit into the product strategy in our e-book: Product Managers’ Guide to UX Design.

Step Four: Prototype and iterate

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

First just create some quick hand-drawn paper sketches. Most commonly these sketches require only line drawings and rough text. 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.

After testing 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.

Remember the real-life example about the project StyleLike? While sketching and prototyping the entire 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 test 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 and test new prototypes to solve them.

An other example is our Bebino project, and the redesign of their online baby diary web application. Read about how we found and solved the most painful problem of our audience going through all these steps and implementing the techniques mentioned in this article in a previous blog post.

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.

To help in the design process, we wrote about how to design screens and also collected the best UX design tools to use.

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

Want to know more about product design process? Still interested product design? Click here to view our Product Design book! It’s a practical guide to help find a path through the jungle of designing digital products.