Product Design Strategy 101: Everything You Need to Know

Product Design
Product Design Strategy 101: Everything You Need to Know
Article by Jelena Relić
Last Updated: December 02, 2023

Did you know that every $1 invested in user experience (UX) returns $100? And that an appealing and easy-to-manage user interface (UI) increases conversions up to 200%, while a good UX doubles them up to 400%?

Have you ever wondered what good UI and UX have in common?

The answer is product design.

Product design strategy is behind all beautifully designed and developed products, whether they are websites and apps or goods you can buy in retail.

This guide will introduce you to all the steps to develop a product design strategy that will result in a product that will be well-received by the customers and in the market.

Let's start with some basics.

What Is Product Design Strategy?

Product design strategy combines design thinking (an approach oriented on designing products that solve users' problems) with business objectives and values.

It is a set of guidelines that help make thoughtful business moves for a successful final product that resolves customers' issues, builds brand loyalty and drives revenues.

To put it simply, a product design strategy is a framework that helps you understand your target audience, identify your product goals and develop them accordingly.

A good product design strategy addresses the following critical points:

  • Identifying the customers.
  • Realizing customers' pain points.
  • Understanding what motivates customers to buy a specific product.
  • Defining the product you’re going to design.
  • Providing research-based insights that will boost your product's success.
  • Knowing where the product will fit in the market.
  • Deciding how to measure product success.
  • Guiding the design team to develop the right product solution.

The strategy for designing a product might seem time-consuming, but it is necessary for a thorough approach that brings results in the end. Regardless of your business size and product complexity, a good strategy is like creating a product roadmap to guide you to the goal.

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Why Do You Need a Strategy for Designing a Product?

A product design strategy will determine all your product-related decisions and help you stay on the right track. Without it, you could easily get lost in the design process and waste too much time on features that add no value to the customers.

Here are some benefits of product design strategy:

  • Improves customer experience. Understanding your customers' expectations allows you to develop a product that fulfills their needs. A product designed to add value to their life and solve their problems will improve customer experience and satisfaction.
  • Increases sales. Product design combines products' appearance and functionality, which is equally important for product success. Beautifully designed, useful products will sell better than poorly made ones.
  • Builds stronger brand identity. An attractively designed product can make the entire brand recognizable and raise the popularity of other products as well.
  • Provide competitive advantage. If you create solutions that surpass your competition in quality, customers will choose your brand over competitors, which gains you a competitive advantage and increases your profit.

A user-centered product design strategy improves your business’s operation, adding value and enhancing your products and services.

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How To Develop a Product Strategy in 10 Steps

The products you’re creating will belong to at least one of the three types of product design: system, process or interface design. Although product design strategy can differ depending on the product and audience’s expectations, here are general guidelines that will position your product for success on the market:

1. Define Your Goals

The first step of your product design strategy will be defining short or long-term goals you want to accomplish with a given product. To identify your goals, answer the following questions:

  • What kind of product are you building and how will you do it?
  • Why are you making that product?
  • What results should your product deliver?
  • Whom is the product intended for and what issues does it solve?

Answering these questions will give you a clear focus on what is important in the product development process and help you measure your progress.

Setting goals isn’t just about measurable results and profitability — you should prioritize customer experience even in this step. Think about the kind of CX you want to provide and the sentiment you’d like users to develop toward your brand. A user-centered approach will help you create a compelling and valuable product that end users will appreciate.

2. Understand Your Customers’ Pain Points

Understanding your customers' way of thinking and the problems they encounter is an essential part of your product design strategy. If you misidentify the issues, your product will be useless for your target audience because it won't solve their pain points.

To truly understand your customers, brainstorm the following questions:

  • What motivates the customer to use your product?
  • What issues does your ideal customer have that your product could solve?
  • How often does the customer need your product?
  • Does the value of the product pay off investment?
  • What goal will customers accomplish using your product?

Answers to these questions aren't supposed to be pure guessing but data-supported facts. Use online tools like Google Analytics to research your target audience or opt for a more straightforward method and find out their expectations through short questionaries and surveys.

3. Create a User Persona

To define your goals and the problems your product aims to solve, it helps to create a user persona — whose needs and characteristics represent a larger group of users.

User personas are fictional depictions of your ideal clients, and each persona group reflects clients you've interviewed with similar goals and pain points.

Making a good user persona is more complex than it first appears. A persona does represent actual individuals even though it does not represent a specific person.

Here are some of the characteristics that make a good user persona:

  • A demographic profile, which includes personal background (age, gender, ethnicity, marital status, etc.), professional background (job, income level), user social and technological environment and psychological profile (interests, attributes, pain points)
  • The end goal describes the goal users should achieve using your product.
  • Daily life scenario that describes how user persona interacts with your product.
  • User personas will keep you focused on your target audience through all the product design stages.

4. Choose an Opportunity

Once you define user personas, you’ll notice repeating patterns that allow you to resolve users' pain points. Opportunities differ as well as your capacity to resolve them with your product; therefore, discuss them with your team and choose the one you can offer the best solution.

What value can you provide your customers in the problem-solving field? A solid answer to this question will define the solution you’ll develop. Elaborate on why you chose the specific opportunity instead of some other.

5. Define the Field You’re Operating In

Designing a product offers you countless possibilities, but you cannot use them all. Define the field you’ll be working within so that your initial idea doesn’t expand until it becomes pointless.

Set boundaries regarding a target audience, type of product, operating platform and similar. For example, does your app need a web version or is mobile enough? Will your product go worldwide or are there some regions you won’t be serving?

The more clearly you define where you will operate, the simpler it will be to develop a solution.

6. Decide How You Will Measure Your Products Success

On average, companies with well-developed product designs acquire 32% more revenue and 56% better shareholder returns.

However, you still need to monitor your digital products' performance to ensure they reach their maximum potential. The easiest way to do this is to choose the metrics to track. The metrics will provide valuable insights into how your product ranks with your audience and indicate opportunities for improvement.

Some of the most indicative metrics you can track are:

  • Customer satisfaction
  • Retention rate
  • Conversion rate
  • Abandonment rate
  • Daily and monthly active user count
  • Session duration
  • Number of user actions per session
  • Task success and time

7. Differentiate Your Product

Product differentiation is one of the most important aspects of your product design strategy.

During this process, you’ll highlight one or more features that make your product stand out from the competition, which can make it more attractive to the target audience. Compare your product to the competition and be objective about the results.

Here are some questions that might help you differentiate your product:

  • What product is your target audience using now?
  • Are they loyal to the brand or are they willing to switch if you offer them a better solution?
  • Does the competition’s product solve the same problems as yours?
  • Could your solution compensate for any shortcomings in the product they are using?

Be thorough when deciding how to distinguish your product. Use the competition's products to understand their design, advantages and flaws. Gained insights will help you create a unique solution that will provide more value to your users.

8. Identify Potential Risks

Every business process comes with potential risks and product design strategy is no exception. Keep your eye on these common challenges:

  • Budget risks — project cost might be significantly higher than you initially planned. Add a budget buffer or emergency fund to cover all the extra expenses.
  • Time limit risks — breaking the deadline is a frequent problem in product design because many factors can affect the time project demands. To avoid this risk, set deadlines for milestones, not final product publishing date.
  • Technical risks — happen due to technological changes. You can overcome them by providing training for your employees or hiring a product design firm.

9. Ideate Your Solution

After you've gathered all the necessary information, it's time to brainstorm solutions. Create the prototype using the design system in some of the design tools. Test the prototype among users using one of the following methods:

  • Moderated usability testing, where someone from the team guides the user through the product usage.
  • Unmoderated usability testing, where users must figure out how to use a product independently.
  • Guerilla testing implies finding people in public places and asking them to take a quick usability test.
  • In-house testing is done by team members or in-house staff.

After you finish testing, interview users and find out what and, more importantly, why they like or dislike product features. These insights will help you create the best solutions for your customers.

10. Adjust Product Design Strategy as Needed

Product design strategy is an ongoing process. Adjust it when you notice an increase in competition, new opportunities or declining metrics for best results. Customer issues and data are ever-evolving; therefore, your strategy should be flexible to provide adequate solutions for changing circumstances and expectations.

Product Design Strategy: Final Thoughts

Product design is the deciding factor that determines the success of your product on the market. Stats confirm this claim — 94% of customers don't trust outdated or poorly designed digital products — they are looking for modern and functional solutions for their money.

You'll need a step-by-step product design strategy to develop an appealing, functional, attractive product. Implementing these tactics will increase your chances of success and lower the possibility of failing, saving you time, money and resources.

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