The design of your digital product is your chance to make a strong first impression on your users. Whether you’re trying to convince consumers to purchase a product, entice them to use your platform to watch a livestreamed event, or more, your design needs to grab their attention and keep them interested. But it also needs to be achievable by your Design and Engineering teams.
So how do you walk the line between wowing your users and keeping your teams’ workloads realistic? It all comes down to planning and collaboration, and it starts long before your engineering team gets to work.
In this blog, we’ll cover four ways you can make your product design work for you, well before your launch date.
1: Solve the right problem
The first step in making product design work for you (and your users) is to plan a product from day one that meets an unmet need of your end users. That means stepping into their shoes, understanding their challenges, and finding a way to solve their problems.
But, crucially, you have to solve the right problem. Not all your customer’s problems. Not your problem. Not even what you think the problem is (or what your stakeholders think the problem is).
After all, if your design is based on a flawed assumption of what your users need, you’re behind from the start.
One way to get to the root of the issue is to use the Jobs-To-Be-Done (JTBD) approach.
Ask “What job is our end user “hiring” our product to do?” For example, if you were building a concert livestreaming app, your JTBD scenario (from your end user’s point of view) might look something like “When I’m watching a concert, I want to see other ways I can interact with the performers so I can develop a closer relationship with my favorite artists.”
JTBD is a framework to help you quickly define, categorize, capture, and organize your customer’s needs. As a result, JTBD saves you time by identifying the right problem quickly. In turn, you avoid wasting time and money you can’t afford to lose.
2: Agree on your North Star product vision
Once you’ve determined the problem you need to solve and lined up your resources to start working toward it, develop a “north star” vision for your product.
Your vision should establish what you’re trying to achieve in a way that you can clearly communicate to your team, and define what you do and don’t believe the product will do. It will also give you a benchmark later in the development process to decide what features or ideas will add value to your product, and which are just noise.
This guiding light for your product will, along with your JTBD statement, be the foundation for your digital product’s design. By setting it early in the design and development process, you can be sure that the work your designers do is directed effectively and efficiently from day one.
Create your north star by starting with a problem hypothesis and the desired outcome of your product. Then, as you go through the development process, collect and organize your team’s feedback, and compare it to the problem hypothesis.
With those insights, you can develop a low-fi prototype to verify that you’re on the right track and building a product your end users will eventually want to adopt. Your prototype should be purposefully bare-bones: Focus on the minimum you can build to test your idea against your vision.
A wireframe, mock-up, template, or other versions of your product idea will allow you to collect feedback on a stripped-down version of your final product before you invest more resources into finishing it. This is your opportunity to check that the fundamentals of your product are sound, and make any changes to get back on track if user feedback lets you know you’ve missed the mark. It also gives you a chance to collect that feedback and convey it among your team and to any stakeholders.
Creative ideas will abound during this iterative process. Capture then, compare them to your vision to see if they should be incorporated, or archive them as future product concepts.
3: Make it real with the right team
People make products, but diverse opinions make better products. Your development team will include product, engineering, and design members (and maybe a few others), each with a unique view of making products. Your goal should be to create a team that interacts with each other to achieve the product vision. Bringing the right team together takes time, but it’s necessary to incorporate varied viewpoints. For instance, early in the process, embed engineering expertise to help them understand the product vision and customer needs. Even though the engineering work won’t begin until later, they’ll be able to think creatively about the appropriate technology and techniques to solve the problem. And you’ll benefit from an engineer who understands your core user needs from the start. Later on, embed designers with the engineering team to collaborate on code and data structure decisions.
Generalists with broad experience as well as a deep well of discipline-specific expertise are particularly useful on small teams. Strategists and researchers can help translate valuable input from users who convey their frustration with current products, and help add new features or insights on how the product should operate.
Transparent team decision making, done cooperatively and with frequent feedback, helps the team test their theories from many perspectives.
4 Establish team rituals
You can have the best experts on your team, but it can take a while before they function efficiently. One researcher identified team behavior as form-storm-norm-perform, a four-step process people must go through to act as a team.
Once members come together (form), they go through a flurry of activity to get the team up and running (storm) before they establish rules and codes of conduct (norms) that create successful outcomes (perform).
While the goal is for teams to perform efficiently, norms are the glue that holds a team together, setting rituals for members to interact and communicate seamlessly. Communication is essential in product development, as diverse perspectives and conflicting opinions arise. That is why teams need routines that promote transparent, clear communication that helps them work together in pursuit of the product vision. These rituals include:
- Daily Standups where each team member briefly shares progress and roadblocks.
- Team Retrospectives conducted monthly to review and improve the development process and capture key lessons.
- Leader Retrospectives conducted monthly for team leaders to share their insights on improving how the team functions and review lessons learned.
In addition to norms and rituals, team members must feel safe and supported when communicating challenging opinions. One effective way is to have the entire team have their “eyes on the product,” allowing everyone to look at a screen, board, or mockup in the same direction. A consistent focus helps everyone work together and remove barriers.
The product development process should be a “conversation within the process” that incorporates frustrations, nuances, successes, lessons, and diverse perspectives. Established rituals allow the team to use all of that, turn it into productive conversations, and take lessons learned from project to project.
Your product design is one of the first things you’ll establish during the broader digital product development process. And, planned the right way, it can also be a springboard to launch not only our design team but every part of your product team closer to a successful end product.
Putting some foundational tactics to work at the start of your project means that, once it’s time to start designing and building your product, you already have a rock-solid base. And that puts you several steps closer to end users who want to adopt your product.
Could you use input from industry-leading designers, strategists, and engineers on your next (or current) project? Contact DockYard today to learn how we can help you and your team delight your users and lay the groundwork for long-term success.