Today, digital product development companies primarily focus on identifying and understanding user needs, problems, and goals. Our philosophy is to put special emphasis on the research phase in order to avoid faulty product design and unnecessary costs spent on UX and UI design and implementation. For this reason, it is fundamental to know the users’ real needs during every software development project.
The overall design process, known by many as UX/UI design, can be broken down into two parts:
- user research and product strategy planning
- UX and UI design
This part of our article addresses the user research and product strategy design phase.
If you would like to read the 2nd part about 7 steps of UX and UI design, >> click here <<
Design Thinking as a Basic Principle
To keep up with with ever-changing market and user needs, it’s essential to have an approach with innovative solutions that meet our strategic product development goals. The foundation this innovative approach is built upon is the "design thinking", which focuses on the product strategy choices through which we can understand our users' needs and problem and can help them achieve their goals.
The 5-Step Design Thinking Process
- Empathize: the key to a successful product design is to understand user needs and the underlying problems.
- Define: with defining a statement of the problem and the goal, we detect what should be the subject of development, with which we can respond to the target group’s needs.
- Ideate: brainstorm ways to explore possible solutions and collect innovative ideas.
- Prototype: identify and develop a concept of the solutions that can best solve the defined problem.
- Test: the feedback received in this stage allows to revisit the prototype—until the continous refining and iteration improves the product.
Finally, the process should return to the target group: we interact again with the people for whom our product is made. The process repeats in cyclical way throughout the product's life cycle.
The Process of User Research and Product Strategy Planning
Let‘s go through these steps and demonstrate them in the process of professional software development to show why they are essential to achieve a satisfying end result.
1. In-depth Client Interviews
During the in-depth client interviews we can learn about the client's business environment, their current market situation and where they want to position themselves in the future. Based on these, we can create a "compass" and map the product-related business needs in the different user segments.
While monitoring their everyday operation, we seek to discover all possible needs and problems of the diverse user base. Keeping close contact with the client is paramount during the entire product development process.
2. Market Research and Best Practices
It is of utmost importance to get to know our competitors—not only those companies providing a similar product, but also those who fulfill similar customer demands. The market research aims to reveal the big picture to explore comprehensive information related to the given industry.
It is also indispensable to know our USP (Unique Selling Proposition), the unique product feature that differentiates our solution from that of the competitors. This is what makes the product special, and what offers unique value to the users.
In addition, we carry out a best practice analysis, where we collect the best solutions of similar services provided by our competitors (strengths) and the wrong examples to be avoided as well (weaknesses). It’s in this stage that we collect look and feel versions which helps to create the mood board: the visual representation that will serve as the message we seek to convey with the product.
3. Client Workshops
Together with the client, we formulate our current ideas about our users in workshops, where we set up hypotheses that we can later validate (confirm or refute) through user research. The workshops also help the client gain a clearer picture of their product.
4. User Interviews
Using our preliminary hypotheses as points of departure, we’ll be able to ask our potential users the right questions. The interviews allow us to identify the main issues that we aim to resolve.
It's very easy to get trapped in our own preconceptions when designing a product, so it's essential to find out how our users think, feel, behave and what they really need. This is the only way we’ll be able to propose solutions to real problems.
5. User Journey Mapping
The best way to cover user needs of different backgrounds and objectives is to simplify the complexity and create simple digital user journeys that are scalable for the larger customer base, but still tailored to individual user needs, and that meet the needs of all user segments.
We create a user journey to map the entire path, both digital and physical, that the user follows in order to solve their problems. We can observe the interactions between the user and the product and detect the challenges the user faces before, during, and after using the product.
The user journey mapping also promotes getting the client and the designers on the same page, as it makes it easy to understand the ideas behind the product for even those who don’t have any knowledge of the industry.
6. Personas (Representations of User Target Audiences)
By creating personas, our goal is to separate users into distinct segments, to establish the basics of designing according to the needs of each user group, and to develop sympathy and empathy in order to better understand our future users.
Personas incorporate the motivations, goals and needs of each target audience group, giving us a better idea of the ways we can help them achieve these goals and solve their problems.
By creating a separate user journey map for each of our personas we can better understand who is using our product, in what context, with what motivation and purpose, what obstacles they encounter, and what special needs they have during use.
7. Product Concept
After understanding and prioritizing the business goals and the user needs, we were able to define the real problems to be addressed, outline the design guidelines and ask the relevant questions about the how-to’s. We brainstorm together to select the ideas that are sound and feasible, then we design and develop a product concept.
We create a user journey to map the entire path, both digital and physical, that the user follows in order to solve their problem.
We can observe the interactions between the user and the product and detect the challenges the user faces before, during, and after using the product.
The user journey mapping also promotes getting the client and the designers on the same page, as it makes it easy to understand the ideas behind the product for even those who lack knowledge of the industry.
As the boundaries between the physical and digital elements of a product are increasingly blurred, and these two form integral parts of each other, it is becoming more and more important for companies to provide complex strategic solutions to their users' needs in the digital space.
The users come from different segments of society, their backgrounds, motivations, and goals can differ considerably, that’s why special product design techniques are needed to create a user experience that meets a wide range of needs. We partner with our clients every step of the way, from design to implementation.
The next part of our article addresses the UX and UI design, which is the second and final stage of the design process.