How to Optimize Your Team’s Product Design Process in 2023
The methods companies use in designing digital products have changed industry-wide in recent years. Businesses’ new approaches include adopting agile practices, foregrounding user-centric design and making use of data-driven thinking.
These adaptations in product design are meant to cater to today’s users. Today’s audiences contain a high percentage of digital natives who have spent their lives interacting with technology. Not only do these users have high expectations for experience quality, but they also have options: If a product doesn’t please them, they can go with an alternative.
To stay competitive in this newly energized landscape, your organization should inspect and optimize its own product design workflows. By implementing best practices and aligning your design approach with your overall business objectives, you can deliver industry-leading experiences and keep your products relevant for years to come.
The Business Impact of Optimal Product Design
Companies today interact with their audiences mainly through online methods. This clearly applies to born-digital companies that exist primarily as apps or websites, but it also affects brick-and-mortar businesses. Organizations without a reliable way to communicate with their audiences digitally may find themselves struggling to compete.
Since digital products are a lifeline for businesses today, the design and development of these deliverables are more important than ever before. Organizations that have an optimized design process are poised for product success — and the more overarching kind of business objective success that comes along.
Those well-crafted design processes tend to have a noticeable impact on the products companies release. A product that has been created in an optimal fashion tends to deliver improved results in terms of:
- User retention: People today have more choices than ever before regarding the products and services they use. Enough negative experiences with an app can easily drive a user to try a competitor. An optimized design process is necessary to deliver state-of-the-art features that keep the audience engaged and happy.
- New user attraction: The same issues that erode user retention also hamper new user attraction. A badly executed design, one that doesn’t match up to the maturity levels of other similar products, can discourage newcomers from giving a tech product a chance.
- Profitability: The revenue-generating features of apps should be optimized through an effective design process, keeping users happy and engaged and delivering higher profits. Design also affects the other side of the ledger: A good design process is more cost-effective than one that hasn’t been optimized.
- Speed and timing of updates: From enjoyable new features to essential structural updates, companies are under pressure to push new code live in a quick, streamlined way. A non-optimized design process creates roadblocks to prevent such an effortless roll-out strategy.
- Cost management: When organizations have streamlined and repeatable product design processes, they don’t have to struggle with some of the issues that might otherwise pop up, such as ballooning expenses or unexpected costs throughout design and development.
The general calculus around optimized product design simply makes sense for businesses today. Since digital products have become such an integral part of general strategies, creating better methodologies around these applications’ design and development can have powerful ripple effects throughout businesses.
Common Problems with Product Design Processes
While some organizations today boast highly evolved product design processes, others have room for improvement. There’s not one overarching problem afflicting product design — companies may have fallen behind the times, or they may be struggling with more structural issues.
No matter what the root cause or the depth of an organization’s product design imperfections, it’s important to come up with a strategy to neutralize the problems. Optimization is key because the longer an unsuitable process is left in place, the more waste it can cause a company.
Businesses that have flawed product design workflows tend to suffer in terms of:
- Cost: Design handled without streamlined and effective systems and processes is simply more expensive. The higher price tag may come from paying extra personnel to deal with an unoptimized process or engaging in costly efforts to change course due to siloed thinking or flawed decision-making.
- Time: Trying to move quickly in an unoptimized system can prove challenging. A lack of communication or a design environment split between multiple tech stacks can cause confusion and delays amid the steps of the design process.
- Product quality: When a company without optimized design does release a product update, the overall experience may be lacking. Due to issues such as inadequate user testing or a lack of design quality control, apps can end up being expensive and slow to roll out — and still disappoint users.
The stakes are high — companies struggling with poor design practices may find themselves falling behind better-optimized competitors. Once businesses have identified that they have a problem, they can set to work making impactful changes to the way they design products.
Optimizing Product Design
The actual process of improving product design can take many forms, reflecting the reality that every business has its own needs, and its own maturity level regarding its current practices. In addition to deciding what to change and how, leaders can also decide how quickly and drastically they want to shift their current processes.
When choosing whether to make major, impactful shifts or roll out new practices gradually, stakeholders need to consider the risks of different kinds of change:
- Large and immediate changes may risk disengaging employees. Design professionals could feel that too much is shifting around them, and not follow all the newly implemented best practices.
- Slow and incremental changes could have a muted impact at first, leaving the organization dealing with its current, non-optimized methods for longer.
The ideal approach, one that minimizes both categories of risk, is to go gradually, but start by focusing on the issues that have the biggest potential impact on the company’s business results and product success. Rolling out changes little by little prevents employees from falling out of step with the process, while targeting the design factors users care about most ensures the organization does feel the positive impact of its efforts, proving the value of the process.
Optimization can touch every part of a business’s design operations, from the people involved to the necessary technology and day-to-day workflows. By finding the right combination of these changes, any company can address its unique product design needs. The functional areas break down as follows:
One of the steps in optimizing a product design process is deciding who to include. The grouping should involve enough decision-makers to cover every relevant area, without letting the personnel grouping become too large and unwieldy. Companies should directly involve employees, including:
- Product designers.
- Product managers.
- Business analysts and requirement managers.
With each of these perspectives, product design can move forward. There are also other partners within the company, or working as third-party collaborators, who have a role to play in product design. These are:
- Executive stakeholders.
- Subject matter experts for specialist fields.
Failing to take these contributors’ opinions into account when making design decisions could lead to misaligned priorities, and the need for time-consuming retooling later.
Digital tools make up one area of product design that has evolved significantly in recent years. Today’s teams have access to collaborative platforms that allow them to work together seamlessly, without the siloing and miscommunications that have caused friction in the past.
These overarching solutions include Figma — a very popular choice among product designers today — and provide a framework for effective teamwork. Businesses that are still relying on legacy tech can take a major step forward by implementing a specialized platform.
Every step of the design process comes with its own selection of technologies. Department leaders should review their tech stacks and make sure they have up-to-date tools for:
- Research and ideation.
- User interviews and testing.
- Data analytics.
- Feedback collection.
- Project management.
While tech upgrades aren’t a strategy unto themselves, they do provide the essential groundwork for modernized product design.
In addition to verifying that they have the right personnel involved and are using effective tech platforms, organizations need to hold their new product design approaches together with effective workflows.
Setting objectives is an essential part of creating a strategy. These goals should reflect both user preferences and overarching business objectives. Product design should consider:
- Functionality and usability.
- User-centric design and positive user experience.
- Feasibility of the design, in terms of cost and time of development.
- Consistency with the overall brand experience.
While pursuing those objectives, design personnel should make sure to follow up-to-date best practices, including:
- Collecting user feedback often and implementing it effectively.
- Keeping top stakeholders informed of tier progress.
- Tracking key usability metrics.
- Shortening iteration cycles and achieving continuous delivery.
A fully optimized product design process can be an organization’s secret weapon, allowing it to rise to the top of its industry via superior digital products, simpler internal processes, and overall cost savings.
Expert Intervention in Product Design
Businesses can’t afford to launch poorly designed software products in today’s highly competitive and digital-driven climate. This means there is a pressing need to optimize the design process. Fortunately, organizations don’t have to manage this evolution on their own.
Expert consultation can come in many forms, at any section of the process. Whether an organization needs a targeted intervention to resolve one hang-up or wants to invest in a full-scale product design collaboration, there are multiple ways to elevate the overall quality of product design processes.
Contact Transcenda to learn what kind of product design assistance is right for your organization.