Understanding the needs of users and business

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Working as a key part of your digital product strategy team, an expert designer will help to develop and manage the high-level plan for your digital product. They will act as creative thinker, problem-solver and champion of the needs of the user or customer.

In this strategic role, designers help create the roadmap to ensure the product will provide real value to users, and have a good fit for the market or business requirement.

The bedrock of your strategy must be the product vision. An experienced product designer can help you express a vision for what you are trying to achieve—and why you are making a product in the first place.

For example, Airbnb’s product vision might be expressed as: “Connecting accommodation hosts with paying guests worldwide”. Note that the product vision should define the destination—but not the exact way this will be achieved, or how the product will work.

Based on this vision, the product designer will undertake a discovery phase to research and understand the actual needs of users or customers. This may involve interviewing users, stakeholders and customers, as well as desk research on the market landscape. Gaining this understanding is vital, since the most common cause of product failure is creating something users do not want or need.

With a real understanding of the target users, the product designer can create user personas. These are concise and shareable documents that paint a clear picture of an imagined archetypal user—in terms of their needs, pain points, behaviours, mindset and other qualities.

The product designer can also explore the competitive landscape for your product. Are there well-established competitors or innovative disruptors already out there? How can you differentiate your product from these? If the product idea is to serve an organisation’s employees, are their existing off-the-shelf solutions for this?

Equipped with all these insights, the product designer can help you define the product strategy. As well as being documented in depth, the strategy should be strong enough to be expressed in a concise and compelling “elevator pitch”. For example, Airbnb’s elevator pitch might be: “Our digital platform connects travellers with locals, letting them rent rooms or entire properties. Guests save money, and hosts monetise their empty rooms—we just take a 10% commission.”

The overall strategy can be refined and improved on an ongoing basis, as the designer proceeds with development and user testing of the product design.


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