In the world of product design, strategy is often a missing piece. The ability to look beyond the aesthetics and user interface to understand the larger business context can provide a unique advantage. By employing a strategic mindset, designers can create products that are not just usable and beautiful, but also profitable and impactful.
Here is a design framework and approach for product designers who are looking to add more strategy to their work.
A strategic design framework
When you embark on a design project, it’s essential to consider these five critical questions:
Who's it for? Understand your user base. What are their needs, goals, and pain points? Use user research methods to get an accurate picture of your target audience.
What's the problem we're trying to solve? Identify the issue your product is aiming to address. Make sure you're not just treating symptoms but targeting the root cause of the problem.
Where will people use it? Consider the context in which your users will interact with your product. This will greatly influence your design decisions.
When will people use it? Understanding usage patterns can help design a product that fits seamlessly into your users’ lives.
Why will they love it? Uncover the emotional hooks of your product. These are the aspects that will generate user loyalty and advocacy.
Understanding the business
User experience is not just how somebody uses a product but also how they pay, maintain, upgrade, and dispose of a product. — Alen Faljic
As Alen Faljic has mentioned, the user experience encompasses not just how someone uses a product, but also how they pay, maintain, upgrade, and dispose of it.
To do this effectively, you need to have a solid grasp of the business:
Understand your earnings report and financial goals: Knowing what the company considers important will help you prioritise projects effectively.
Know who’s on your board and what they value: Familiarise yourself with the people who influence your CEO and their values.
Know your competitor’s business goals: This will help you understand what they value and where you can intercept, bypass, or ignore them.
Be accountable for design goals that enable business outcomes: Ensure that the projects you're working on have a meaningful impact on the business.
When design, technology, and business align, you can change people's lives.
Understanding the problem domain
Understanding a problem well means also understanding your competition, and understanding the systems around which this problem exists. — Julie Zhuo
As Julie Zhuo rightly pointed out, understanding a problem well means also understanding your competition, and understanding the systems around which this problem exists.
This means not only knowing the ins and outs of your product, but also understanding the broader market landscape and the systems and processes in which your product operates. Remember, all business is about making bets on human behaviour, as stated in 'The Power of ‘Thick’ Data' article by WSJ.
“At its core, all business is about making bets on human behavior.” — The Power of ‘Thick’ Data, WSJ
By comprehending the problem domain, designers can make more informed decisions and create solutions that genuinely solve the user's problems.
Adding strategy to product design doesn't mean moving away from the core principles of design. Instead, it means augmenting those principles with a business-oriented mindset. It means aligning design decisions with the overall business goals and understanding the larger context in which your product operates. By doing so, designers can create products that are not just effective and user-friendly, but also drive business results.