Digital Product Design for Beginners

A concise guide to getting you started in product design

What is Product Design?

Product design is a process to create products that meet your customers’ needs and solve their problems through thoughtful, clever, and universal design.

What is the Product Design process?

The product design process will depend on your business processes, company culture and the product you’re designing. A good process marries business goals, user needs, creative design, and feasible technology, giving birth to the best user experience.

  • 5-step process: Understand > Define > Design > Build Prototype > Test

What is the role of a product designer?

A product designer is someone who understand the customers, recognise the business needs, and can translate them into a design, and is skilled at user testing. They may or may not be highly technical with the implementation of their design.

1. What is UX?

UX, or user experience, is the cumulative emotion and perception that your users feel and think when using your products. UX experts are concerned with these questions when designing products:

  • Was the product easy to understand and use?
  • Did it solve their problem?
  • Did it help accomplish their task?
  • Did it save them time?
  • Would they use it again?

2. What is UI?

UI, or user interaction, is made up of the visual elements that users interact with. In a website, software or app, the elements include:

  1. Input elements: Check box, text box, drop down lists, etc.
  2. Informational elements: Progress bar, notifications, etc.

3. What is a design system?

A design system is a collection of design components, or a library of visual elements. You can reuse them to build a digital product without having to redesign these elements from scratch.

4. What does a product designer do?

The daily responsibilities of a product designer include:

  • Creating or understanding user personas, a fictional persona that represents the target user, or a subset of targeted users.
  • Creating or understanding user journey maps. This is a map detailing the flow of user behaviour before discovering your product and then using your product.
  • Developing design systems
  • Collaborating with engineers and designers on product design rollouts

What is the difference between a product designer, product manager and UX designer?

1. Product Managers

Product managers hold the product vision, strategy, roadmap, and pricing. They are also accountable for liaising with other stakeholders like marketing, management, finance. You can say they have an eagle’s eye view of the product from idea to release and support but often do not work on the nitty-gritty details of the product.

2. Product Designers

Product designers hold the design of the whole product or a product feature. They know more about the design, workflow, user behaviour, and UX compared to the product manager. They design solutions, prototypes, and collaborate more closely with developers compared to product managers. At the same time, they must work closely with product managers to help fulfill the business goals.

3. UX Designers

UX designers are focused on the user experience, instead of the UI and business side of the product, which is where UI designers, product designers and managers come in. There are also UX writers, UX researchers and UX engineers under the UX branch. In some companies, UX designer roles are interchangeable with product designer roles.

What is a good product design?

1. Good products are designed for the users

You can never go wrong when you design for the people who will be using it. After all, you’re solving a problem for them, and they are your customers. Thus, product design processes are not linear; they are iterative because you are constantly refining your designs until it hits the right spot.

2. Good products are designed for ease of use

The product is easy to use with a small learning curve for users. In fact, great design makes it almost intuitive to the point that technology fades away in the background. Using the product becomes second nature for your users.

3. Good designs are consistent and on brand.

You’re not only designing for users, but your design must be understood and shared with developers, engineers, UX and UI specialists. This is where design systems come in, maintaining a uniform look and feel across the product.

4. Good designs are innovative

Innovative designs elevate your product to a higher level among a sea of competitors. It could come from technological advancement, or simply, clever use of design elements such that the final product becomes a trend setter, and later, an industry-wide standard.

5. Good designs are timeless

It comes down to striking the fine balance between current trends and classic appeal. Whether you’re talking about a digital or physical product, it’s true — good designs hardly go out of style.

“Design adds value faster than it adds costs.” — Joel Spolsky, Trello creator

Want to learn more about Product Design?

I’m building an online course that will be jam packed with design tips and tricks based on my years of experience designing digital products. I will walk you through my tailored product design process based on the design sprint that will get you creating functional and beautiful products in no time.

Family first // Principal @relabstudios // Customer-obsessed digital design agency // Design sprint advocate // Melbourne // Say hello @alhermanto

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