Building Digital Products: A Quick Overview On My Process As A Product Designer

There are many ways to approach building digital products. Contributing to the success of a product launch includes balancing user and business needs, while managing stakeholder expectations. Unfortunately, scope creep and resource availability can drastically sway deadlines causing frustration and confusion for everyone involved. I’m going to share with you my process on building digital products from a product designers point of view.

Getting Started

Depending on the project, which can range from simple to complex, you’ll need to figure out the best way to go about building it; waterfall or agile. The Ralph Stacey Diagram is helpful in determining what methodology to use based off of the certainty of technology and agreement on requirements.

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For simple projects, waterfall might be the best option. And for complicated and complex projects, agile. If stakeholders can’t agree on requirements and technology, then you’ll end up in the chaos zone. You won’t be able to build the product and must come to an agreement on requirements and certainty on technology.

During my time freelancing, waterfall made the most sense. However, from my experience working on an in-house design team with super complex projects, it’s best to adapt to agile. Before you can launch a product, you must first design it then build it. Let’s take a look at the design process.

The Design Process

The first half of the battle of building a product is identifying the problem you are trying to solve and designing a solution based around constraints. There are many methodologies at your disposal, but using the Double Diamond Design Thinking Methodology has suited me just fine.

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There are four phases, each with their specific role in the process, which helps keep things simple. They are…

  • Discover — Insight into the problem. Perform user research and talk to users to gather feedback. Understand their pain points.
  • Define — Area to focus on. Identify the core problems you are solving for and align with stakeholders. This is where the design brief will be created.
  • Design— Potential solutions. This is the phase where you design the solutions. Everything from brainstorming and whiteboard exercises to low fidelity wireframes all the way to mockups and animation. 
  • Deliver—Solutions that work. The solution that have been designed now need to be built and implemented. This is where I work with the product manager to help turn our designs into JIRA tickets.

It’s important to remember that there should be a high level of collaboration among stakeholders in each phase of the design process. The team will be able to design more efficiently because issues will surface and resolve earlier. This saves time that could be spent designing better solutions that fit the needs of the user and business. Once the designs are completed, we’ll need to work with engineering to build it. Let’s take a look at the development strategy.

The Development Strategy

Now that the solution has been designed, the second half of the battle is building it. It’s the designers responsibility to help support the engineers through the development process. Generally, this includes answering any questions they might have, providing additional assets and testing the design along the way.

JIRA is used to manage the projects development and QA testing. Designs will be organized into epics and stories. This also allows us to make user stories as granular as needed which outlines the expected behavior and rules in our designs. Once the tickets have been created, they’re assigned to engineers to complete. The great thing about this is that we are able to monitor the progress of the build which helps us have more productive scrum meetings and manage stakeholders expectations.

The design team is able to help during the QA process as parts of the product are developed. We’ll test the functionality to make sure things are working as expected. If bugs are found, we log them in JIRA where they can be assigned to engineers to fix.

Launching A Product

Once the project has been designed, developed and properly tested to fix any high impact bugs, it’s time to launch. The engineering team will plan for a release which pushes the product from the staging environment to production. Designers should assist in monitoring users feedback on social media and customer service inquiries so if any high impact issues arise, they will be fixed immediately. 

Once things are smooth, we celebrate! It’s super rewarding to celebrate success with the team and acknowledge everyone's hard work… especially over a fancy dinner and drinks. 🎉

 

But the work doesn’t stop there! Now it’s all about collecting feedback so you can improve the user experience for this newly created product. There are many tools that an be utilized to gather feedback, like MixPanel and HotJar, and help you iterate on the product.

While this is a high-level overview on my product design process, I hope it benefits you in some way towards forming a stronger strategy in product design and development.