A good product design can make your business stand out from the crowd.
If a product looks cheap, feels cheap, and does not meet the target market's needs, it will fail.
However, with the right product design principles, you can create valuable products that people will want to buy. You’ll observe an improved user experience and an increase in your sales.
A well-designed product creates user value and drives demand through unique selling points or USPs.
In this article, we'll go over the nine principles of product design to ensure the efficiency and success of your products, whether physical or digital.
Table of Contents
9 Principles of Product Design
A product is only as good as its functionality. This principle must be top of mind starting with the first sketch. According to research, 42% of visitors leave a website because it lacks functionality.
Although designing a product is an artistic process, functionality will dictate the value of your product.
You might have a neat idea to build a new feature or add an extra button, but will it add value or add clutter?
This question will help you stay focused on the big picture and ensure that you build the right product.
If you are still not sure where to start, think about what problem you are solving. Aim to solve a problem that your potential customers are experiencing.
A user-centric product will put the user first in every way. It will not only solve their problem but also do so hassle-free.
This is why user testing is crucial— it helps you understand how users experience your product. Moreover, it enables you to make adjustments and avoid costly mistakes.
With the rise of mobile-first design, defining your design as responsive is no longer enough. Instead, you also need to define your design as mobile-first.
Research shows that 57% of customers wouldn’t recommend a brand if its website is not mobile-friendly.
One of the biggest design challenges of the recent years is the issue of responsiveness— ensuring that your website or app scales to the user's device.
You can use a few different methods to address this issue. You can start with a mobile-first approach: building a website from the ground up with mobile devices in mind.
Simplicity doesn't mean you should cut unnecessary features or those essential to your product. Instead, it means that you should focus on the vital elements of your product.
Start by defining what you want your product to achieve. From there, identify the essential features.
Now, evaluate each of those critical features to see if there are any ways to make them simpler. That doesn't mean you should cut corners or ignore the details.
For example, if your product requires a button, then make sure that you follow best practices for button design.
The best products look and feel authentic. They are transparent in their approach and are accurate to the brand. With that in mind, your product design should reflect your brand and be consistent.
Start with your brand guidelines and bring them into product design and vice versa. This will ensure that your product reflects your brand and engages your customers.
It will also help you stay consistent and avoid any brand confusion. With that in mind, your product design should be authentic. It needs to feel like you created it.
If it feels like it was designed by someone else, then your customers will notice and feel disconnected from your product.
6. Communicating a Visual Language
A visual language is a system of icons, symbols, and color schemes that help your customers navigate your product. It also helps them understand what features are available.
With that in mind, start by defining your product's key actions and features. From there, find ways to represent those features visually.
You can do this in many ways, including creating icons and color schemes. If you're working with a product manager or marketing team, they can help you create a visual language that works for your product.
For example, if your product is a fitness app, you can use a heart icon to represent the workout feature. A heart icon is commonly used for love and health, which makes it perfect to represent workouts.
Start with user expectations. What do your customers expect when they interact with your product? You can use that as a starting point to define your consistency.
If your customers expect consistency when using your product, you must follow that expectation. This will help ensure that your customers have an easier time navigating your product.
If you are working with an existing product, you need to know your product and its functionality. Then, identify what is consistent and what isn't.
Finally, determine why things are the way they are and if there are ways to make them uniform.
From there, make a list of things that lack consistency and prioritize those that would have the most significant impact.
Innovation is the key to designing products that stand out. It's not just about creating something new but about ensuring that your product design is innovative within the context of its category.
Innovation can be expressed in many ways: from a unique look and feel to a new idea that changes how we interact with our world.
The possibilities for innovation are endless: one can imagine products that are more environmentally friendly, easier to use, more ergonomic, safer, or simply better looking than those currently available.
A good design is honest; it doesn't try to trick you into thinking something is better than it is. It doesn't have to be flashy or complicated to be effective.
A good design should be simple, clean, and uncluttered. It should be easy to use and understand.
A product design should not deceive the user. When you first see a product or experience a user interface, you should know what you're getting into before you even touch it.
You should be able to understand what it does and how it works just by looking at it or interacting with it once.
You shouldn't have to read through long manuals or tutorials before figuring out what's happening in your new piece of hardware or software— that's not a good design.
Tips to Create a Good Product Design
- Understand your users. What are their needs and challenges, and what do they want from you? What products or services do they currently use, and why do they use them over your product or service? Conduct surveys, interviews, and usability tests to see how your users interact with the products on the market. You should also see where your users come from.
- Define your product’s purpose. This particular purpose will allow you to refine your design and ensure that your product works for its intended purpose.
- Create a distraction-free approach. When designing your product, make sure that it has only one function. The more functions a product has, the more complicated it becomes for users.
- Avoid information overload. You don't want to overload users with too much data, but you also want them to have enough information to know what to do next. Use the power of structure to help your users understand what you're trying to communicate.
- Create a strong visual hierarchy. Have a clear order of importance for different pieces of information on your site or app. An excellent visual hierarchy makes it easy for users to understand how they should interact with your product and where they need to look next.
- Integrate design principles. Once the functional requirements are precise, you can start integrating design principles relevant to your product.
3 Main Types of Product Design
There are three main types of product design: system, process, and interface.
System design is the process of designing and creating a product's overall structure and organization.
It's concerned with how everything works together—how every part of your product functions as part of a whole unit.
The goal here is to ensure that everything works together seamlessly so that users can enjoy using their devices without having any difficulties or frustrations.
Process design refers to making something that involves all the steps in getting it from raw materials to finished goods.
A process designer designs processes for companies or organizations to follow when making products or performing services.
They are often involved in operations management, quality control, material handling, and logistics.
They might work on everything from online shopping sites like Amazon to physical manufacturing plants at auto companies like Ford or General Motors.
Lastly, interface design concerns how users interact with a product's interface to perform tasks.
It is an approach to designing the interface of a software product, website or mobile application to make it easy to use.
Interface design can be seen as a subset of human-computer interaction and is closely related to information architecture.
Interface designers are responsible for creating the look and feel of a company's products or services. This includes everything from websites to smartphone apps that customers use daily.
They work closely with other teams to create great experiences for users—from creating easy-to-use interfaces on websites with intuitive navigation menus so users can find what they're looking for quickly.
Product Design Principles: Takeaway
Designing effective products involves understanding the problem you're solving and then creating something people will use regularly.
You want your product to stand out while providing real value to your customers. You need to be authentic and give valuable experience. After all, businesses that prioritize design generate 32% more revenue.
Product design can be tricky, especially when trying to make something that fits your brand image and that your customers will love.