Getting Started with Product Design – Part 1

Product Design is a core part of product development – and one of the main drives of Nimble Focus Consulting, which is why I decided it will be great to kick-start off my sharing session with this topic.

The design of a product (and service, which I’ll collectively term as “product” here) is multifaceted and challenging. We are looking at designing an exciting product – which will greatly benefit our target market. Very often, this is built upon innovative and disruptive technology and concepts. When combined with well executed business development, this has a good opportunity of bringing in exponential and disproportionate income returns for the business.

For many of us in technology startups, product design can be a very new thing. Even after engaging in several iterations, we are still constantly discovering new aspects and refining our processes.

In this first part of my Product Design series, I will share with you some of my personal notes that can contribute to a good product design.

Understanding users’ needs

One aspect of good product design is to understand the users’ point of view. How is their work flow like? Do they follow any standard procedures or templates? How does your design compare against their current methods? Is it intuitive? Points like these contribute to the ease of adoption of your product.

 

Matching product design with the business model

To build a sustainable business, it is also important the product design must fit well into the company’s business model. Would the product sales involve only a large one-time upfront investment from the user? Are there any follow-up servicing packages or add-on features the user can or need to purchase in the future? This is directly linked to the long term growth strategy and revenue of the company.

 

Choosing the right ingredients

This is especially true for physical products. Components and materials should be carefully chosen so as to avoid potential situations which may involve significant re-design and unnecessary cost in the future. Are your components going to become obsolete soon? Is the type of plastic you are using for the product body not complying with certain safety regulations? These are just a few examples which, if pre-empted, could save precious funds and time.

 

Mitigating risk when working with vendors

Often, we may have to rely on external vendors for different phases of product design. It is critical to protect our businesses against unfavourable situations, such as the loss of intellectual property (IP), or the sudden exit of a vendor. How can we put measures in place to protect our IP, and make contingency plans for alternate vendors?

 

Communication is key

As the ultimate owners of the product, we should act as the decisive link between our users, designer(s) and manufacturer(s), and ensure proper flow of information, as the same information can be interpreted differently by the various parties. For example, to the user, an “intuitive button control” is rectangular and red because this is the industry standard. A designer, on the other hand, may create it as circular and green because in “in general many buttons are circular and green should be intuitive enough”. Avoiding situations like this can help minimise miscommunication and unnecessary rework.

 

Different stages, different focus

Product design priorities may vary depending on the stage of product development. Are we concerned with creating the initial lab prototype to “show that the concept works”? Or have we advanced to the point where we are looking at commercial prototyping? Are there any other considerations when migrating from a commercial prototype to a manufacturing design? Emphasis on different aspects of product design may change as we move from phase to phase.

 

These are some broad ideas – and will be too much to fit all of them in one post! In fact, this will also vary greatly depending on the type of product and industry a startup is in. I plan to look at some of these in greater detail in my upcoming posts. If you have something you will like to look at, do give a shout-out to me as well.

These, and more are part of the services we offer at Nimble Focus Consulting. To know more, please feel free to contact us here.

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