What being a product designer means to me?
Being a Designer is more than ideating and executing on projects, It's about creating a shared vision between an organization and all of its stakeholders. In doing this, everyone must have a shared sense of hierarchy in which we all understand that the end user or the customer is everyone's boss and we are solving for their problems.
To execute this design method, its the job of a product designer to create an open environment where all ideas can flourish in optimism. Involving stakeholders at every turn so that by the time it comes to execution you have full team buy-in. The one thing I've learned throughout my
“ The one thing I've learned throughout my past five years as a Product Designer is that no one process fits all needs ”
past five years as a Product Designer is that no one Process fits all needs. That said there are numerous design methodologies and practices that could be used to solve any organizations problems. It's all just a matter of choosing the right methods for the desired outcome.
Below are some of the methods I've used in my past experiences as a product designer. I've broken them down explaining the ideas themselves, along with what they can be used for and when. The list below is not a be all end all to my processes as a designer. It's always important to add new skills to your toolset as a designer. That said you can expect this list to grow over time as I further expose myself as a problem solver.
Research Phase (5)
When creating a product, you must first understand your core users and why they do what they do. The goal is to create an environment where your users can talk about their experiences naturally. This research can be done via a 1 on 1 interview or Focus groups with multiple users. It's probably safe if you ask permission to record them, as no one likes to feel like they are being judged as you write notes in the middle of their storytelling.
Qualitative research gives you the ammo to ideate and brainstorm solutions for your end users. They provide the data needed to empathize with your users and build personas that allow you to tell accurate user stories. They give you a precise base of your users needs and wants, which help set the tone of the product in which you aim to create.
2. Competitive Landscape Research
Whether you are creating a brand a new product or entering a crowded market, competitive landscape research is a must. Some of my favorite forms of this type of research are pattern studies and competitor qualitative research. When running qualitative research on competitors products its best to give your users task and scenarios. You can do one dry run where they complete a task without your input while you analyze everything they do. After this, you can do a second run where you ask fine-tune questions as to why they are doing the things they are doing. It's important here for a user to know you are a neutral party. Often times users can feel like they need to say what you want to hear. Always be clear and let them know this is about them and their experience with the product as it is.
Competitive Landscape research can save tons of time when making early product design decisions. You never want to reinvent the wheel and when you are entering a crowded market. It's crucial to replicate the success of your competitors, that said when doing this research you also find ways in which you can improve and 1 up your competitors. This type of analysis can be used during the very early stages of any product. It allows you to create a safe MVP that is based on reliable assumptions which you can then validate iterate and move forward with.
3. Pattern Studies
This is a type of competitive landscape research where you collect design patterns from other products that you think do well in certain areas. This can seem like a lot of work at first but don't be afraid to ask for help from your team and stakeholders. Ask them to find and collect design patterns and Ideas they find interesting; this helps you get more research done in a short amount of time. When all is done, you will ask everyone to meet and present the patterns they've collected and ask them to talk about why they think these ideas work and how they envision them working into your product.
When you do collaborative pattern studies, it allows everyone to feel like their opinions are being heard. This type of research is best done in the beginning phases of your design process. It helps to set a tone when you move on to the brainstorm and ideation phase.
Empathy mapping consists of understanding your user in all facets of their daily lives. The goal is to find out what your users hear, think & feel, say & do, and see. Exploring these areas will allow you to discover what their pain points are and identify ways in which they can gain and fix those problem areas. Once you know their lives and everything they go through on a daily basis you can then figure out how your product fits into it.
Empathy mapping sessions can be used to build detailed early personas of your target users. You can get a solid idea of your users based on these close to accurate assumptions. When this is partnered with qualitative research, you can then validate those assumptions, and your personas can become that much more accurate.
5. Persona Creation
Personas are a culmination of all of your research both qualitative and quantitative. They give your organization insight into your user's needs & wants and allow you to set product goals that solve for them. They also act as a way for you to story tell and create user journeys of your product with your persona in mind. As an organization, your persona is your mascot and is virtually everyone's boss. Personas are never set in stone, and they grow and get better with time. You may also find yourself with more than one persona based on the different types of people your product serves.
As mentioned before personas can be used at the beginning of your design process to brainstorm and ideate new features, as well as create better user journeys which lead to better products. It's easier to create a story for someone specific like "Sam Smith" rather than a generic user. It allows you to move forward with ideas having the confidence that you've done your research and have a good grasp of who your user is and what makes them tick. Personas can also be fun and bring your organization together under a common goal of solving for your user's needs. If personas are done correctly, you will find your team constantly asking themselves in meetings "what would Sam Smith do?".