Design Methodology

Solving an interesting problem starts with understanding that problem. The problems product designers encounter range from creating new products, to designing new product features, to resolving issues for current or prospective customers.

Step 1: Identifying the Problem

Before jumping in and solving the problem, the product designer must understand the business impact:

  • Who will benefit from solving the problem?
  • Will solving the problem help the company increase market share?
  • Is solving the problem in-line with the product’s goals?

If the answer to the last two question is yes, then solving the problem will be prioritized and added to the product roadmap.

Step 2: Discovery

Once the problem has been prioritized, the product designer needs to create product designs and requirements that solve the customer’s problem. To do this, the designer needs gather data on the problem. Wherever possible, the product designer should gather data directly from a customer. During their discussion with the customer, the designer needs to walk away with an understanding of the customer’s goal and the steps the customer has already taken.

When a direct customer is not available, the designer should gather information from people in the same industry and job function who have personally experienced this problem so that they can move forward with good data.

Step 3: Creating Designs and Requirements

After enough data has been gathered, the product designer will create user stories that describe the solution in terms of a product feature and product designs that show how a user would interact with the feature.

For an existing product, wireframes of the new feature will usually be sufficient to validate the designs and requirements. For new products, the product designer needs to create the information architecture, user experience, branding, etc.

Step 4: Validating Designs and Requirements

The designer needs to validate whether the product designs and requirements will solve the customer’s problem. At this point, the best thing the designer can do is review the proposed designs and requirements with the customer to get their feedback on whether they believe this is a valid solution to their problem. The customer will usually provide feedback to the designer, which will continue to shape the designs and requirements. If possible, the designer should continue iterating on the designs and requirements, using the customer to provide feedback on the iterations as necessary.

Outside of a customer’s direct feedback, the product designer needs to validate that the new feature is usable for all users. Designers can validate usability by setting up feedback sessions with other customers and by performing usability tests with prototypes.

Step 5: Scoping the Feature

After the requirements and designs have been validated, the feature needs to be scoped and scheduled. At this point, the engineering team provides their feedback and effort estimates for each of the requirements.

Based on the scope, the feature will be planned for upcoming engineering sprints.

Step 6: Building the Feature

After the engineering team begins building the feature, the product designer should be involved to answer questions as they come up and to collaborate with the engineers to ensure that the end product delivers on the requirements.

If possible, the product designer and engineers should meet with the customer to get their feedback on the feature while it’s still in development. This gives the team the ability to react to customer feedback quickly, while the feature is being built.

Step 7: Launch and Monitor

After the feature has been launched, the product designer needs to assess how well the customer’s problem has been solved and to gather additional information from customers to continually enhance the feature.

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