How to create a great product experience
Are you aiming to offer an effective and memorable UX? Here’s how to design it starting from your users’ needs.
The digital interfaces with which we interact, let us experience “magical” moments, keeping complexity at bay and getting close to our purposes in a simple way.
As users of the most wide-spread digital products, we know that building an effective experience can be done, but as we become the ones in charge of doing it, then we discover we need some help.
From my personal experience as a product designer at Moze, I had the chance of working alongside many start-ups and companies. I supported them in designing and building their digital products. An increasing number of companies have started focusing on the quality of the user experience to be more competitive and value their users.
Although there’s no magic trick to build a striking digital product, there are principles and tools that can make this job easier.
In this article we present some Product Design best practices, which we have assimilated by helping numerous companies to create products capable of responding to the real needs of their users. This is done by tracing a line between the most effective methods among those that we have explored so far.
Get to know your users
Solutions change continuously, but users’ needs don’t.
Acquiring sensitivity on the current experience we are giving our users with respect to the needs we want to satisfy is the first step to take.
An appealing interface isn’t enough to build an effective experience, especially if our product cannot find its place in the everyday life of who should use it.
“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!”- Theodore Levitt, 1975
Looking at interviews, surveys and other data we collected, we can easily trace the typical path that people go down to satisfy those needs.
While quantitative data — e.g. Google Analytics statistics for a website — tell us “what” people using our product do, involving users by interviewing them “live” helps us complete our analysis and allows us to go deep into “why” they do it.
Getting started is simple
Getting started is easier than you think. Based on qualitative surveys, it is clear that interviewing five people could be an excellent starting point to bring out many issues.
Watching people’s reactions to certain inputs (e.g. a prototype of the product we want to produce) can help us measure our intuitions, discover who our real competitors are and let us identify new opportunities.
Put your ideas to the test – quickly
Being used to interact on a daily basis with nice and effective products, developed by technology giants, we can barely grasp the real extent of attempts and iterations on which they grounded their success.
This is particularly true when launching products on the market as it requires big investments, trusting only our guts can be very risky.
Design Sprint is one of the most effective tools to test your ideas quickly with a reduced investment in terms of time and money.
Developed in GV (Google Ventures), Design Sprint is a workshop that helps the design team to build a realistic prototype of the product and to test it with potential users in just five days.
This process digs out a lot of useful information and help us make the right decisions. It makes clear whether our initial product idea needs to be improved, developed from scratch or if we need to change our focus completely.
“The bigger the challenge, the better the Sprint” — Jake Knapp, “Sprint”
Some of the challenges we won
Below you can see some case studies showing how Design Sprint allowed us to overcome some situations that occurred while working alongside companies that asked for our support.
“The stakes are high”
Given the high costs of external suppliers, an Italian company active globally in the manufacturing sector decided to stop using licensed software purchased from market leaders and started all works to develop a new in-house ERP software. To do this, the company created a new dedicated in-house team and planned the first three years of work.
In this case, Design Sprint was very useful to quickly validate a high-level concept for the software to be developed and helped the team focus on a much larger project.
“There is little time”
An international group of investors and entrepreneurs wanted to launch an investing solution focused on artwork. The project had to be presented in two weeks’ time at an important event of the art sector. Design Sprint allowed us to process a visual prototype of the platform in a very short time, making it possible for the project to be presented to the public.
“The team is blocked”
A Company supplier of electricity and gas to industries was trying to develop a new project to improve energy trade experience. Design Sprint was used to materialise and test the various queries of the client, supporting a group of managers in identifying the best route to be followed.
Create a high-level vision
Once we have defined the concept of our solution and investigated which could be the most valuable elements for our users, we are ready to build the product.
Our challenge is now to develop the solution in detail so as to obtain the maximum impact on user experience, by selecting the best resources.
At this point, some critical aspects need to be addressed and the operational modes have to be defined carefully in order for the project to run smoothly.
Getting the team aligned
Starting from some graphic drafts and specifications, the various divisions – usually business, design and technical development – must agree on what to do, making sure that all can work towards the same goal, minimising the room for error and the time spent in resolving misunderstandings.
Plan the work
Finding common ground among concurrent needs, priorities and time frames need to be established to allow us to carry on in the most convenient way, and at the same time, give the team the correct overview of upcoming works.
Keeping the progress monitored
Once works have started, we have to make sure that everything is proceeding according to plan so that we are capable of taking action promptly in case of hitches.
An Agile solution
Calculation sheets and long specifications cannot be enough. Often, they leave too much room for interpretation. This could lead to the need to get yourself painfully interpreted. In the best case, the outcome is a never-ending list of reviews.
The User Story Mapping is the tool we found to be the most effective to align business, design and development on an overview of the product.
Born from the Agile software movement, this technique proposes a “smart” solution to these issues, encouraging teamwork over frontal communication.
Working with sticky notes, this method helps us to map the features of our product from the point of view of the user experience.
Each sticky note represents one user need and becomes the unique reference for all the detailed information required to implement that part of software.
Looking at the map, the team can structure different releases and plan their work overtime.
Build gradually, measure and repeat
We are the first, as users, to notice that the technological solutions available are increasing and improving in the blink of an eye: let’s think about the apps installed on our smartphone or the web services we’re using more often. How can we ensure our users a high quality UX that is constant in time?
The longest the time we spend to put our product on the market, the more we are exposed to unexpected events that could cause the delay of the “moment of truth”: the moment in which our work will pass the judgement of users.
“No business plan survives first contact with customers.” — Steve Blank
It is best to organise short-term work in quick cycles, by releasing the first version of the product (commonly named MVP, i.e. Minimum Viable Product) and measure the results obtained after the next version. This helps us keep the focus on the impact of our product and optimise resources.
In a similar way, in the long-term it’s best to put in place exploration and research activities at the same time of product development to reflect market changes and spot any possible new cutting-edge element.
“Keep measuring and learning even after you ship.” — Jeff Patton
This post was originally published on Talent Garden Innovation School blog.