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Product Design for Non-Designers: A quick guide into Design Thinking and Tools for Product Design

A guide for non-designers to learn about design thinking and get started with design tools

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January 5, 2023

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15 minutes to read

All of us have experienced Product Design in one way or another. If you have worked with startups or businesses, then you must know the significance of the term and the process in bringing ideas to life. If you are a consumer, then it is  important for you to understand a complex process which has led you to experience a full-fledged product. 

Product design refers to using creativity to solve customer problems. It is the process of developing products that meet customer needs by defining user requirements, problems faced by customers and then finding creative solutions to solve these problems. Product design also looks at the result of this process, which involves a lot of back and forth between brainstorming, product iterations and user testing. 

As complex as it sounds, the end goal of this entire process is really simple: Happy Customers!

Product Design is based on Design Thinking which is the key to bringing creativity while solving difficult problems. The Stanford Hasso-Plattner Institute 5 steps in design thinking have helped big names like Google, Airbnb, IBM in innovating strategies that make things easy, simple and beautiful for their customers. 

So let’s quickly learn these 5 steps as well as the design tools for each stage that complement the product development process!

*There are tons of tools out there for you to explore and sometimes these tools overlap in more than one stage.

5 Step Design Thinking Process + Tools to Get You Started

1. Empathise 

In this stage, you try to understand your customers by getting close to them and getting the answer for two questions i) who are they? ii) what do they want? Once that is done, focus on the problems that need to be solved. If you need more information on how this can be done, you can explore Jobs To Be Done (JTBD) Framework. Observing user behavior, by focus groups and lab testing play an important role in this stage.

But the bigger challenge is how do you build real empathy? Building real empathy means going beyond the usual behavioral observations to try to understand what the customers think and feel. 

It actually means talking to the customer as much as possible, carrying out user interviews, surveys and feedback forms. Try living your customer’s experience. 

Tool: Hotjar

Hotjar has heatmaps and recording features that tell how users are clicking, where they are clicking the most and where they are clicking the least. Hotjar also includes surveys and feedback forms to directly hear from the customers. This tool is extremely useful in the empathize stage. 

2. Define

You have tried to build a relationship with your customers in order to understand them and their needs, now it is time to use those insights and perform some actions based on them.

Remember these insights are powerful and can be used to define a clear problem statement that revolves around your customer needs. 

Tool: Miro

Miro makes it easy to brainstorm and collaborate with your team members.

3. Ideate

Since you have spent a good amount of time understanding the problem, at this stage, it is now time to start generating ideas for solutions. 

As you have already gone through the Empathy and Define phase, in this stage, you have more specific problems to deal with so try to go crazy with throwing out as many ideas as possible to spark creativity in the team.. This will inspire creativity and automatically help the team come up with best solutions.

Do not discard any ideas in the beginning of the ideation process, welcome them all. So you can narrow down the best possible solutions.

Tool: Figma

Figma is a powerful design tool that helps you design anything from websites, to applications to logos to much more. Learning Figma helps you take your first steps in the world of User Interface (UI) Design and User Experience (UX) Design. 

4. Prototype

In this stage, you turn ideas into testable prototypes as soon as possible. Once your solutions are defined, you should start producing minimal viable products (MVP) so that these solutions can be implemented. 

Tool: ProtoPie

ProtoPie is the easiest tool to turn your interactive design ideas into more realistic prototypes. The reason most UI/UX designers prefer it in the prototyping phase is because it allows you to create realistic, dynamic prototypes for multistate scenarios. 

5. Test 

The last step in the design thinking process is testing your prototype with real or potential users. You shouldn’t invest in new designs or products if you haven’t tested their effectiveness. Testing will help you be mindful of your resources as well as help you stay determined to reach your goal which is a satisfied customer. You can run usability tests, A/B tests and split tests with focus groups of selected users. 

Tool: Google Optimize 

Google Optimize is an experimentation platform that helps create A/B and multivariate tests. 

While we have put together some tools for each stage for your ease, please know that there are many other tools and some of the tools also overlap while being used in more than one stage. 

Remember the end goal of going through these arduous processes in Product Design is a Happy Customer and a product that helps them feel at ease because it is designed according to the customers’ needs. 

Interested in learning more? Join our masterclass “Empathy in Design: Create Products Users Love” by Indrajeet Kumar on January 5, 2023 at 6:00 pm GST

And if you wish to put your skills to test, you can work on one of our FREE exclusive projects, “Build Your Product Design Portfolio” - A Project Designed by Microsoft’s Kartik Singh to gain experience, showcase relevant skills and become job-ready!

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