The goal of product design is to find and develop a solution for a problem. Design decisions made during the product design process will determine the product’s accessibility, aesthetics, and overall user experience, making it a critical aspect of the final product experience. A poorly designed product may result in frustration, confusion, and dissatisfaction.
To ensure that your product is both functional and inclusive, these are some of the major steps to take for product teams in the product design process:
During the discovery phase, UX researchers and designers work closely with stakeholders to gain an in-depth understanding of their target audience and the needs, pain points, and expectations of that audience. The data is collected to create personas and user stories that help the team conceptualize the objectives of the users, as well as the environment in which the product will be used.
In addition, this phase involves clear definition of project goals, scope, and constraints, which will all help to guide the direction of the whole design process.
The ideation phase is about identifying viable solutions that meet business and functional requirements and align with the project objectives.
In this phase, designers generate a variety of potential solutions for the problem at hand. This could include brainstorming, getting inspiration from existing products and services, or creating storyboards to visualize user experience when sketching out potential solutions.
When evaluating options, it is important to consider the feasibility of implementing each potential solution, and the impact it will have on resources, budget, and timeline.
Wireframing and prototyping
This is when designers create a low-fidelity wireframe of the product experience. The wireframe is used to evaluate the product's basic interface layout and functionality with feedback from stakeholders(and end users too, where possible).
Afterwards, a prototype is developed using the wireframe as its base. A prototype is a more detailed, interactive version of the product that allows product teams and stakeholders to assess the interaction and interface design of the product experience.
Usability testing is an essential component of the design process; it provides invaluable information on how users interact with the product. Product teams can use this phase to conduct tests with a sample of the target audience and gather feedback on the product’s usability and overall user experience.
Generally areas to test should include navigation, interface, feedback, error handling, and consistency. Navigation refers to the ease with which users can find information and complete tasks within the product. Interface includes all the visual elements, such as buttons and text, that users interact with to control the product. Feedback refers to how the product provides information to users about their actions, such as confirming successful completion of a task. Error handling points to how the product responds when users make mistakes, such as entering incorrect information. Consistency outlines how similar tasks are treated throughout the product, so users know what to expect. By testing these areas, product teams can identify and resolve usability issues.
Design iteration and accessibility reviews
Based on the feedback received from usability tests, product teams move on to make refinements and improvements to the product’s design. This could include updates to the interactive patterns, interface layout, color scheme, typography, or other aspects of the design.
To ensure the product is inclusive, it’s also wise to start incorporating accessibility reviews early on with design iterations. Working closely with accessibility specialists during this phase can ensure that the product meets the requirements and project goals while also being inclusive to a diverse range of users, including those with disabilities. The accessibility review process includes checking the product's compatibility with assistive technologies, evaluating the contrast ratio of text and backgrounds, ensuring the product's interactivity is keyboard-friendly, and much more. Remember that being compliant with accessibility standards, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is not the only goal here. When you improve the product's overall accessibility, you also improve its usability.
The design process is a crucial aspect of creating a product that is both functional and inclusive. Whether building a new product or updating an existing one, a thorough product design process is key to success. By following these steps strategically, product teams can ensure that the final product not only solves a problem, but also provides a pleasant experience for all.