The development of digital products is an important part of businesses' growth. When creating a digital product, we need to understand exactly which problems our product is supposed to solve. The user-centered design ensures that the design of digital products meets people's needs and desires (or usability).
To develop a digital product, a product team follows a series of steps called Digital Product Design. Imaginary Cloud created its design process, Product Design Process (PDP), adapting it to specific demands for digital product creation.
PDP consists of methods that are project-focused and follow a multidisciplinary approach. It has a project plan and a high-level architecture while keeping the user in mind. Under the umbrella of Design Thinking, you can find similar methodologies. The PDP is just a collection of better methods designers can use without thinking about many things, including how to choose from many options in Design Thinking.
So we can consider the two processes to be very similar, but we'll explain how both processes work and why PDP is more appropriate for digital products.
Table of contents
What is Product Design?
➤ Why is the Product Design Process important
➤ What are the Product Design Process phases?
Design Thinking Explained
➤ 5 Stages of Design Thinking
Why Product Design Process is better than Design Thinking when creating digital products?
Product design is essential for creating successful products, where companies can ensure that their product will meet customer needs and expectations. By following a systematic approach, companies can avoid pitfalls during product development.
Many business experts will agree that product design identifies a market opportunity, defines users' needs and problems, develops a solution for that problem, and validates the solution through the user goals.
So, when considering high-quality products or features, designers must understand business objectives, know the elements of a good design, and be able to answer the following questions:
- What problem are we solving?
- Who has this problem?
- What do we want to achieve?
Answering these questions allows designers to understand the user experience of a product as a whole and not simply the interaction (feel) or visual (look) part of a design.
Finding an innovative solution requires:
- Validating the problem
- Get to know your audience and your client
- Generating ideas
- Narrowing down accordingly to needs, goals, and technology available
Since technology keeps evolving, it's important to pay attention to more than just looks. It requires a thorough knowledge of business analysis, user research, psychology, and software development. Thus, designers will be able to build a digital experience that satisfies users' expectations. This will boost the business.
In our blog post about The Twelve Steps to create a Successful Product, we discussed how Imaginary Cloud created a PDP that is a multi-disciplinary and user-centered design approach. Over time, these techniques were refined in the industry and are linked together to streamline the product design process.
This is Imaginary Cloud's PDP structure, and it includes four phases: research, ideation, execution, and technical assessment. These steps provide guidelines on how to design a product.
Goal: Ensure that no decision is made based on vague assumptions; identification of the main aspects of the business model and user needs. It contemplates three steps: briefing, user research, and design benchmark.
Goal: Formulate an approach to the product based on the user's needs and the business model. It contemplates four steps: user journey, decision matrix, wireframes, and mood board.
Goal: Bring the concept to life and put it into practice. It contemplates three steps: style guide, graphic user interface design, and prototype.
Goal: Guarantee that all requirements and ideas generated are realistic to implement. Prepare the handover to the development team. It contemplates two steps: high-level architecture and project plan.
Take a look at our book - Product Design Process - to better understand Imaginary Cloud's process. It's a comprehensive guide that provides practical examples and shows what you should have by the end of each step.
- Participatory Design: bringing users to the design process
- Web Design and Development: what's the difference?
- Product Design Process vs Google Design Sprint
As Tim Brown Brown, executive chair of IDEO, mentions:
"Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer's toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success."
By using design thinking, designers can generate creative ideas while adding value to products.
It incorporates analytical, synthetic, divergent, and convergent thinking to create many potential solutions and then narrows these down to a "best fit" solution. There are many ways to use a design thinking process to incorporate different methodologies to reach the same endpoint.
Design thinking starts with a "divergent" phase, during which participants brainstorm ideas and identify multiple solutions. Next comes the "convergent" phase, during which participants narrow down their ideas and choose the best solution. Finally, in the "prototyping" phase, participants test their solutions.
Design thinking has become increasingly popular in businesses that have realized that traditional linear approaches to problem-solving are often ineffective. By contrast, design thinking encourages flexible thinking, experimentation, and iteration - qualities that are essential for success in today's rapidly changing economy.
Design thinking is a non-linear, iterative process influenced by inspiration, ideation, and implementation.
Several Design Thinking models are available from such organizations as the Stanford d.school, IBM, Google, IDEO, etc.
The Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford (the d.school) is world-renowned for teaching and applying design thinking, so we'll focus on their five-stage design thinking model.
The five stages of design thinking are:
Stage 1: Empathize—Research Your Users' Needs
Design thinking relies on empathy to enable designers to set aside their assumptions about the world and gain real insight into users.
During this stage, you must understand your customers and their needs. But it’s also important to define and validate the problem because you have to make sure that 1. the problem exists; 2. it has a big-enough audience that justifies investing in it.
All the tools used in this step are empathy tools that allow the researcher to put himself in the person’s place: photojournal, guided tour, analogous inspiration, conversation starters, peers observing peers, immersion, etc.
Stage 2: Define—Identify Users' Needs and Problems
The Define stage requires you to assemble and share the information collected during the Empathize stage with your team. As you gather observations, find patterns, and highlight important insights, you will synthesize them to define the core problems. The problem statement should always be human-centered.
Here’s an example: “(STAKEHOLDER) needs a way to_______________(PROBLEM/NEED) because ____________ (INSIGHT)"
This stage will help the designers identify features, functions, and other elements that should be included in the product to address users' main pain points - or, at least, make it easier for users to solve issues themselves.
Tools used in this stage are proto-personas and personas, storyboards, user flow, case scenarios, etc.
Stage 3: Ideate—Challenge Assumptions and Create Ideas
The solid groundwork from the previous stages enables you to "think outside the box" and develop creative solutions.
You can use hundreds of ideation techniques in this stage—Brainstorm, Brainwriting, Worst Possible Idea, and SCAMPER. It allows you to generate as many ideas as possible. You should then investigate and test your ideas to determine which are most likely to solve the problem or provide the elements to avoid it.
In this step, it's important to consider the user needs, the overall goals (user goals, business goals, and design goals), and the possibilities of the technology.
Stage 4: Prototype—Start to Create Solutions
To investigate the solutions uncovered in the Ideate stage, the design team will make several inexpensive, scaled-down versions of the product.
In this stage, some of the tools you can use are sketching, building, wireframing, etc.
This experimental phase aims to identify the best possible solution for each of the issues identified in the previous stages. As the team develops prototypes, they implement solutions within them.
Stage 5: Test—Try Your Solutions Out
Designers or evaluators test the product using the best solutions identified in the Prototype stage. Testing a prototype allows the designer to gather feedback from the audience and discover if they're on the right track to find an innovative solution.
This stage concludes the five-stage model. Nevertheless, a process such as design thinking can allow you to refine one or more other problems based on the results. A deeper understanding of the product could help you investigate what the audience thinks, behaves, and feels towards it and even lead you to go back to a previous stage.
You can then proceed with further iterations and turn it into a better product. The ultimate goal is to understand the product and its users as deeply as possible.
Both PDP and DT place a strong emphasis on the user experience. It means that designers consider the look and function of a product, how users will interact with it, and what emotions it will evoke. In addition, they are iterative, which means that designs are in constant refinement as they uncover new information.
The DT framework serves as the foundation for the PDP, which is why they have so many similarities. Because PDP was developed for building digital products, this process is the ideal tool for this objective. On PDP, planning out a project before starting helps save time and money, which results in higher quality products.
Imaginary Cloud is devoted to creating a human-centric world. The ultimate goal of this company's design team is to improve the user experience while also enhancing conversions for business growth with a balance between costs/benefits, all without sacrificing quality or excellence.