How to explain product design to anyone

4 min read
Emily Esposito
  •  Sep 20, 2018
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As a product designer, when someone asks you what you do, how many times have you gotten a blank stare in response? Usually, the conversation ends right there, or the opposite: you spend ten minutes trying to explain what you do on a daily basis.

Product design is a nebulous term that doesn’t accurately portray everything you do.Twitter Logo You’re part researcher, part designer, part problem solver, part project manager, and part marketer. How can you cover all that in a one-minute elevator pitch?

This post will help explain the building blocks of product design. We’ll explore the definition, the stages in the product design process, and the roles involved in product design.

Related: 7 free resources every product designer needs

What is product design?

If design is about solving problems, think of the product designer as the captain that steers the ship toward finding the best solution for customers. She has a big picture view of the entire process, from defining real user problems to tracking success metrics.

Product designers wear a lot of hats: they identify and validate problems, working cross-functionally to gather existing user data and create test plans to capture new insights. Once they have the right data, they develop wireframes to explore possible solutions and prototype the best ideas to put in front of users to get feedback.

Finally, they’ll support developers through launching the final product, work with marketing to craft the right story, and follow the success of the product once it’s out in the wild.

“In a world where every company is battling for loyal customers, product design is essential for making sure you stand out.”

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The product design process

Not every company will follow the exact same product design process. It may even change from project to project. However, the main elements will stay the same: you’ll first gather research, brainstorm solutions, get feedback on your prototypes, and continue to monitor performance post-launch.

Related: The role of art in product design

Here are seven of the common steps in the product design process:

  1. Define the product vision: Before the design process even beings, you need to understand why you need to pursue the product in the first place. Creating a product vision and strategy helps guide the entire team involved in the projectTwitter Logo, establishing a common understanding of what you’re trying to build and why.
  2. Conduct product research: Once the vision is defined, gather user and market research to inform later product decisions. Conducting this research early on helps you save time and resources in the long run because fewer changes will need to be made. Examples of product research include user interviews, surveys, and market research.
  3. Brainstorming and ideation: Based on the research you uncovered, it’s time to brainstorm ideas to address your project goals and solve customer pain points. You can follow many different techniques for ideation, like sketching, wireframing, or storyboarding.
  4. Tip: Use Freehand from InVision to wireframe, plan design presentations, and gather feedback in real time. Everyone on your team can share ideas in a way that makes sense to them, whether that’s sketching, drawing, dropping in images, or typing their feedback in a comment box.

  5. Design and prototyping: By now, you should know what you want to build. During this phase, you’ll begin to create the solution and implement concepts with prototypes. Prototypes let you test the product before completely building it, offering something for users to react to in the next stage. You can make low-fidelity or high-fidelity prototypes depending on what kind of feedback you’re looking for from users.
  6. Tip: InVision Studio lets you design, prototype, and animate—all in one place. With flexible layers and an infinite canvas, it’s easy to turn ideas into powerful designs.

  7. Test and validate: At this stage, you’ll use your prototype to test and validate the concepts with users through usability testing. A high-fidelity prototype will allow you to dive deep into usability and workflows, while a low-fidelity prototype can help you validate the overall design concept (if you do use a low-fidelity prototype in this stage, you’ll continue to design and iterate until you get a high-fidelity version to hand off to developers).
  8. Launch: Once you’re happy with the results from the usability testing, you’ll work with developers to build the product. You’ll also work closely with the marketing team to support the public launch, ensuring that the value propositions and messaging are consistent and accurate.
  9. Post-launch activities: The product design process doesn’t end at launch—it is ongoing. You’ll work to understand how the entire user base interacts with the product, conduct A/B testing, and solicit regular feedback from customers.

Related: 5 simple UX principles to guide your product design

Who is involved in product design?

When the product finally launches, there’s a lot of credit to go around. Here is a list of common roles involved in the product design process. It’s also worth noting that these roles could be individual people or more than one person could assume these tasks and responsibilities:

“In a world where every company is battling for loyal customers, product design is essential for making sure you stand out.”

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  • Business strategists help you understand why this product or project needs to happen. They help identify the value to the business behind every decision.
  • User researchers conduct design research and gather customer feedback to help inform the product.
  • Data analysts collect and analyze huge amounts of data. They help manage A/B tests or dig into user behavior.
  • Prototypers bring your ideas to life before the final product is built. They quickly create interactive experiences that you can test and iterate.
  • Designers focus on the visuals of the product: what users will see. Graphic or visual designers take care of the beauty aspect, working with illustrations, graphics, photos, color, and typography. Motion or animation designers work on the interactive elements of the product, like page transitions.
  • Product marketers figures out how to bring the product to market. They create the product positioning and messaging, and figure out how to drive product usage.

Product designers advocate for great experiences

In a world where every company is battling for loyal customers, product design is essential for making sure you stand out. You need someone to prioritize the user, research their problems, and build a product that solves those problems. You want to create an experience where users feel delighted and appreciated, and want to keep coming back.

That is the value of product design.

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