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3 October 2022

Software Development

6 pillars of Digital Product Design

12 minutes reading

6 pillars of Digital Product Design

How to create an outstanding digital product? With so many unlucky startups, an ever-changing market, and an extremely high demand for digital products, everyone needs an answer to this question. This article will try to explain what exactly a digital product design is, the steps to accomplish it, and its main objectives. Dive in to find out the main principles of digital product design and how you can implement them in your design process. 

Digital product design 

Product design is a process that includes every step taken to bring a product to life, starting with the initial vision up until the final product launch and its future iterations. This process helps identify the market, define the problems and develop good solutions for that problem. Digital products are not physical objects but digital items that users can download or use digitally after subscribing, paying once, or getting them for free. Digital product designers should create innovative and easily usable solutions to satisfy customers’ needs, make their lives easier, and solve their problems. The design process for a digital product is essential to its success because it helps thoroughly understand the market and target users. 

Digital product design aims to embody the client’s vision while putting the future users’ needs first. A product will not exist long without its customers, so it is essential to center the product around its users.

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Steps of the digital product design process

There are a few steps to conducting a comprehensive digital product design process:

  1. Research - At the beginning, research is crucial. This phase should include a general analysis of the field and gathering information about your potential clients and competitors. It is essentially about finding as much information as possible about everything surrounding the desired product. Is there a need for this product? Is there something similar on the market already? What do the competitors' products lack? Maybe they provide a similar service but with too few (or too many) features? Who are your customers, and what problems do they face? There is a need to ask the right questions and get the right answers.
  2. Analysis - The next step is to dive into the data the research brought and make sense of it. This centers around examining and interpreting the information gathered to help understand potential risks, main focuses, and potential buyers. There are many ways research can help. One is creating personas. Personas are fictional characters representing the potential users of the product. Based on the conducted research, the main goal here is to identify the values and personalities of the various customers, their goals, and their frustrations, so that creating a user-centered digital product becomes easier.
  3. Design - After having the necessary information, you can move to the next step - design. This part focuses on creating a visually appealing product, designing its features and components, and perfecting the initial vision. Users will interact with the product in various ways, and you need to consider this.
  4. Implementation - With the design ready it is time to implement it and create a sample of the product. Creating the first version of the product will help the designers see if they are on the right track. This step allows the product to be then tested and helps avoid creating errors and lots of corrections in the future. 
  5. Testing - Next, it is time to test the product with the users. It is crucial to check if all the features work correctly and find any possible bugs before the official launch. Testing with real or potential users gives valuable information that can help perfect the product  to meet customers’ expectations better. In addition, usability tests help the designers identify the areas in the product that lack functionality and need improvement.
  6. Launch - The final step of the digital product design process is launching the product and making it available to a broad audience. However, to own a successful product, it is necessary to continuously work on it and improve it according to your customers’ needs. Customers always share valuable insights, so putting users first always pays off.

Pillars of digital product design

User-centricity

Nowadays, digital product design is user-centered and focuses mainly on making  customers' lives easier. Users always come first, so it is fundamental that the created product solves problems and fulfills needs and demands. That is why it is absolutely essential to understand the potential audience, listen to their feedback, and act accordingly. Realizing users’ problems, and their frustrations and motivations is the key to creating a successful digital product. Customer feedback is an amazing source to discover what they are; you should never neglect it.

Collaboration and communication 

Smooth collaboration and clear communication are the foundations of a successful product design. Almost all digital products involve working in a team which means considering different opinions and priorities. Product designers usually collaborate with teams from both the client and development sides. That's a lot of people. Everyone can have different views on how the product should look. Therefore, clear communication is vital at every stage of product design. Sometimes it can be challenging to achieve a smooth flow of information, but if you succeed, the whole process becomes simpler and more enjoyable. 

User interface and experience design 

Designing an outstanding user interface and smooth user experience is definitely a challenge and will make a huge difference in how customers view the product. One of the main goals should be designing a very intuitive digital experience because users get quickly frustrated if they cannot find what they are looking for. Users should enjoy their time spent using the product and should want to come back. It is crucial to keep in mind the accessibility aspect, too. Not all users might be able to use the product the same way, and everyone's needs should be taken into consideration, especially when designing a product for a broad audience. For example, men and women view colors differently. About 8 percent of the world’s men and 0,5 percent of women have color vision deficiency. It is also true that women can see more shades of the same color. There are a lot of other differences, and designers should always consider these.

Value before features 

A significant principle of digital product design is to think about value before features. It means that value is more important than the number of features, which can sometimes distract the users from the core values of the product. Customers usually do not like to and do not use all of a product’s features, so it is important to understand that a high number of features does not necessarily bring more value. Designers should be able to answer the question: what is the main reason for someone to use the product, and what problems does using the product solve? The answer should provoke a focus on delivering value. The final product should make users’ lives easier and maybe even fuller. 

Data-driven decisions 

Digital product design centers around data-driven decision-making. Thorough research is crucial to base your ideas on. You should rely on gathered data and market analysis, instead of intuition. As research shows, it is very common for us to use mental shortcuts to arrive at decisions. This frequently occurs when there is an absence of information or from the plain laziness of the human brain, which happens without conscious knowledge. Although it is always valuable to be creative, it is essential to base fundamental design decisions on user research or design principles. It gives a broader view of how potential users perceive and respond to the product. 

Simplicity

The last but certainly not least pillar of digital product design is simplicity. One of the main goals of the design process should be to create a simple and smooth experience for the users. Digital experiences can unintentionally create frustrations for the users when they stumble upon  unnecessary obstacles. An obstacle can be, for example, providing too many choices, which increases cognitive load that should be avoidable. That is why simplicity is key while creating an approachable user experience. There are many design principles, and let’s list some of them: 

  • A user should be given clear and intuitive navigation,
  • short loading time, 
  • aesthetically pleasing design that is perceived functional, 
  • enough contrast between elements, 
  • good hierarchy and visual differentiation, 
  • the right level of complexity,
  • and no dead ends. 

It should be enough to ensure that a user can smoothly go from A to Z in the product. Not taking enough care in what is listed above can result in users leaving the product  or, worse, choosing a competitor's alternative. That being said, simple and intuitive UX is exactly what users need to reach their goals and have a positive experience with the digital product. 

Conclusion

These six pillars of digital product design are meant to help develop a product that will be profitable for the owner and valuable for the users. Putting users first and centering the digital product around them is the key to success in fulfilling everyone’s needs. Therefore, basing decisions on thorough research, putting value over the number of features, and creating a smooth user experience are the fundamental pillars of digital product design and will help you create an outstanding product.

Marta

Marta Rogala

UX/UI Designer