Recognising signs of slow delivery in product design

As product design professionals, it is crucial to understand that our actions and decisions significantly influence the pace of a product's development and delivery. The question, however, is: How do we identify when we're slowing down the process?

Illustration of product design

Firstly, we must comprehend the core stages of product design – Strategy, Discovery, and Delivery – and their role in gauging the delivery speed. Each stage has distinct objectives, but they overlap, necessitating a clear understanding of the problem at hand and the level of risk involved.

To simplify, we can use a 2x2 matrix with Problem Clarity and Risk as the axes. This framework can guide our design and research methods and help identify potential slowdowns.

High problem clarity & low risk: Ship it & measure

When you clearly understand the problem and the risk is low, the best approach is to deliver the product or feature and measure its performance. The focus should be on iterative improvements. The following tools and techniques can help:

  • A/B Testing: A data-driven way to compare two versions of a design and determine which performs better.
  • Intercept Surveys: Collect real-time feedback from users as they interact with your product.
  • Customer Feedback: Direct input from customers can provide crucial insights.
  • Clickstream Analytics: Understand how users navigate through your product.
  • Eye tracking: Identify where users are looking, helping understand the visual hierarchy.
  • Product Usage Metrics: Monitor how users are interacting with your product.

Low problem clarity & low risk: Research light

When the problem is not obvious, but the risk is low, it's beneficial to quickly gather insights without heavy investment. Techniques include:

  • Email Surveys: Ask users for their opinions and experiences.
  • Lightweight Interviews: Conversations with users to understand their perspectives without extensive planning.
  • Card Sorting: A technique to understand how users categorise information.

High problem clarity & high risk: Design heavy

For clearly understood but high-risk problems, it is crucial to devote time to design and validate ideas before launch. It might slow down delivery, but this approach can prevent costly mistakes.

  • Prototypes: Interactive models of the final product to validate ideas and gather feedback.
  • Usability Studies: Tests to understand how easily users can use your product.
  • Participatory Design: Involving users in the design process to ensure the product meets their needs.
  • Desirability Studies: Determine if users find your product appealing and desirable.

Low problem clarity & high risk: Research heavy

When both the problem and risk are high, comprehensive research is necessary, which might slow the delivery process.

  • Customer Interviews: In-depth conversations to understand user needs, motivations, and frustrations.
  • Ethnographic Studies: Observation of user behaviour in their natural setting.
  • Focus Groups: A moderated discussion with a group of users to gather diverse insights.
  • Diary / Camera Studies: Users self-report their experiences over time.

Remember, in product design, speed is essential, but not at the expense of the product's usability and desirability. If the delivery process is slowing down, use the above framework to reassess your approach. It is crucial to adjust and fine-tune your methods based on the clarity of the problem and the risk level. This will ensure a more efficient delivery process without compromising the quality of your product.

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