How to Build the Right Product: Business Design Fundamentals

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Bartosz Białek

May 22, 2024 • 12 min read
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Commercially successful products don’t just happen – they’re designed. Discover business design fundamentals and learn how it can help you build exactly what you need to.

Defining business design

Born out of the growing need to include design methodologies in business fields, business design combines the best of both.

For years, design has stood at the forefront of the customer-centric revolution. Focusing on connecting the needs of consumers with building the desirability of products and services, design methods have brought a new perspective into the business world.

Yet, amid constant change, design alone is not enough.

A well-thought-out experience must go hand-in-hand with the business context – and that’s exactly what made the business design branch come to life.

The role of business design in product development

What business design does is use techniques such as design thinking and combine them with business factors. This allows companies to create profitable business models and, in the end, successful products.

The role of a business designer is to enable a streamlined product development process that takes advantage of design methodologies as well as business tools to address challenges faced by a given organization.

The intersection of business design and UX

Business designers make sure that both customer-centricity and business goals are equally well taken care of.

From prototyping to developing and validating ideas – business design ensures every step of the process is goal-oriented. It takes the best out of UX design and adds a business perspective to the mix.

Business design fundamentals

Introducing the five fundamentals mentioned below can help you ensure an effective application of business design within your organization.

  1. Create with customers and stakeholders in mind
    In business design, it all begins with the audience. While others like to start the process with competition research and market analysis, business designers begin by understanding the needs of their customers and stakeholders.

    Gaining insight into the audience, the stakeholders, and potential investors is a crucial element of every successful business design process, so make sure you approach it the right way by taking full advantage of both quantitive and qualitative research.

  2. Build a knowledge base
    A well-developed knowledge base is the key to streamlining the business design process and ensuring all design and business objectives are taken care of.

    It’s crucial to gather all the needed information beforehand. Analyze the competitors, set priorities when it comes to goals and actions, and get acquainted with any previous knowledge base, including e.g. the established design system.

  3. Make prototyping your best friend
    Done is better than perfect. Especially, when it comes to testing the market.

    Prototype the product. Develop an MVP. Provide the audience with a chance to test the solution before putting all the resources into perfecting it. A well-constructed prototype allows you to validate your idea fast and minimize the risk of the product failing.

    Remember that in many cases perfect truly is the enemy of good.
  4. Learn from your mistakes
    Mistakes happen, and there’s nothing wrong with them as long as we can learn from them.

    So, make mistakes and improve the product as you go. Refine the CX, add new components, enhance UI, and don’t let mistakes get the better of your product.
    Make sure an iteration process is set up to continuously validate ideas.
  5. Integrate qualitative and quantitative data
    There’s strength in numbers, and there’s strength in diving deeper. For the business design process to work, it’s important to focus on quantitative as well as qualitative research.

    Embrace all data and make the most of it all to improve the product.

Implementing business design in product development

Knowing that business design likes to draw from the design mindset, it’s no surprise that the process itself derives from design thinking.

While each business designer might need to adapt the way of working to their organization, the fundamental business design process includes these five tried-and-tested stages within the design thinking approach.

Here’s what the process of implementing business design into product development can look like in this case.

1. Empathize

At this stage of the process, business designers focus on getting to know and understanding their customers via research. All the assumptions about the target group must be put aside. It’s all about gaining insights into the authentic audience.

Here it’s important to find the answers to questions such as: Who are our customers? What do they want? What are the stakeholders’ requirements? What does the market really need?

2. Define
Having gathered insights from the audience, business designers can move into the phase of defining the challenges and goals of their organization and/or product. In other words, it’s problem statement time.

This stage is also the best moment to define personas and ensure designers stay close to the customers and stakeholders throughout the entire process.

3. Ideate
Then, comes the ideation process. At this point, business designers know their audience and what they want to achieve with the product. Now, it’s time to come up with ideas that will make it all happen.

This phase requires a lot of brainstorming and exploring as many ideas as possible to choose the best ones that will make it to the next stage.

4. Prototype
The next stage – prototyping – is where business designers turn ideas into tangible elements. This can involve designing anything from a business process to a product.

Importantly, prototyping is not about delivering the final thing. It’s about creating a basic viable solution that can later be tested and iterated based on feedback and all additional improvements needed.

5. Test
With the prototype in place, business designers can proceed to test the solution and gather valuable feedback from customers and stakeholders.

It’s important to do that before going all-in with the implementation of the process or product development. This can help the organization save time, and money, especially in cases where changing the course will turn out to be needed.

A visual representation of the design thinking process

Source: https://bootcamp.uxdesign.cc/design-thinking-process-b64aca6d4a6a

Importantly, just like any other design thinking process, the business design procedure is not a linear one. Its stages may come subsequently, but can also be applied in a loop, depending on the needs of the specific process and/or the product.

Tools and methodologies in business design

Apart from design thinking, there are several other design methodologies and business tools that can be applied in business design.

Below, we’ll briefly discuss some of the most commonly used strategies that help business designers build successful products.

Business Model Canvas

A BMC is a visual representation of the business model. It allows business designers to map out all key factors that make up a business, including its value proposition, customer segments & relationships, key resources & partners, channels, revenue streams, cost structure, and all other key activities.

A graphic depicting the business model canvas

Source: https://www.strategyzer.com/library/the-business-model-canvas

SWOT Analysis

A SWOT analysis stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. It’s one of the basic tools for every business professional, and it can also be very useful when it comes to business design. The SWOT analysis depicts all internal and external factors, allowing business designers to leverage strengths and opportunities while bearing in mind the potential threats and weaknesses.

A SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis template

Source: https://www.bni.com/the-latest/blog-news/3-easy-steps-to-conduct-a-swot-analysis

Lean Startup Methodology

The Lean Startup Methodology is yet another interesting technique that revolves around the idea of prototyping concepts and building MVPs instead of fully developed solutions. Applying this way of thinking, business designers can swiftly develop and iterate their proposals based on feedback and customer preferences.

Lean Canvas

Inspired by the Lean Startup Methodology, the Lean Canvas is a one-page business plan template that aims to divide business ideas into key assumptions and effectively evaluate them. It’s an interesting framework that allows businesses to quickly validate their concepts, test them against stakeholders, and iterate rapidly.

Lean canvas

Source: Miro Lean Canvas Template

Business Process Modeling

A BPM is a methodology that allows business designers to create a graphical representation of various business processes along with their sub-processes. This way, designers can identify different inefficiencies, bottlenecks, and opportunities for improvement in time to address them before they become a real problem.

Porter’s Five Forces

Five Forces analysis is another common business strategy tool that can be of use in business design. The framework allows business designers to explore five forces affecting the product, including competitive rivalry, supplier power, buyer power, threat of substitution, and threat of new entry.

A visual presenting Porter’s Five Forces model

Source: https://www.semrush.com/blog/understanding-porters-five-forces-model/

PESTLE Analysis

PESTLE analysis examines external factors such as politics, economics, technology, industry, environment, legal, and social elements to analyze their potential impact on the business. This enables business designers to better understand the context they’re operating in, identifying possible challenges, and windows of opportunity.

A graphical representation of the PESTLE Analysis model

Source: https://medium.com/@anirbanmukherjee1311/pestle-analysis-c6b822164d4

Building successful products with business design

Business design is the approach that allows companies to align business activities with the needs of their customers and stakeholders.

In a highly competitive and economically challenging market, it offers one of the best ways to combine external demands with organizational goals, resulting in building a profitable product.

Key business design takeaways to implement right away

First off, build your design system with future iterations in mind. Work on improving its UX and UI, but while doing so, stay aligned with developers and the business team.

When needed, seek guidance from other professionals. This will help you improve faster and provide reassurance that you’re on the right track.

Above all, embrace mistakes. These will happen as there is no perfect process. What’s important is that each mistake teaches you something and enhances your experience. Just do your best and learn from every mistake that happens.

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Bartosz Białek

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