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Why a Team Approach Is the Key to Successful Product Design

It’s only natural that you want your product to be a roaring success. It is also understandable that you want to build it in the most cost-effective way possible. But, saving money by cutting back on product designers could actually prove to be a false economy in the long run. 

Product design is undoubtedly a challenging and demanding field. At its core it is about problem solving, but doing so effectively is a team effort

Here, we look at why it’s so important to get product design right, and why hiring a product design team may bring you more bang for your buck than relying on a single designer.

The importance of product design and design thinking

When the mobile era started with the first iPhone, some companies didn’t see the potential in it. Despite the exponential growth in mobile devices, they weren’t interested in making their products mobile-ready. Now, these companies no longer exist.

Other companies have attempted to innovate to get ahead of the competition, but their efforts failed miserably. Remember the BlackBerry PlayBook? No one does. 

What these companies all have in common, is that they failed to put the user at the center of their designs. 

We can have great technologies and lofty business goals, but everything should always start with humans. Designers need the ability to carefully observe and listen to people. One of the most important traits of a good designer is empathy and, at the end of the day, the role of designers is to solve problems. Successful products are ones that have been tailored to users’ needs. 

Our insights show that many users won’t give a product another try if it fails to impress them at the beginning. The visual layer can be appealing, but it won’t increase user loyalty. Given that returning visitors or customers are more valuable than new users, and that it’s far more expensive to attract new users than retain existing ones, it is important to get it right. 

Ultimately, design thinking is business thinking – both are about making products which provide a high return on investment. 

So why use a product design team?

Given the importance of getting product design right, it is only natural to want to tackle it in the most effective way possible. The complexity of problem-solving and user-centered design means that often, one designer is not enough. Let’s take a look at some of the key reasons why hiring a product design team is a wise investment.

Get a range of expertise 

Digital product design is a very broad domain which requires extensive knowledge of both UX and UI design, multidisciplinary skills, and a flexible approach. It’s extremely hard to find people who would be able to cover all of these essential areas by themselves.Within product design, you can find a whole spectrum of specialisations. There are visual designers, designers devoted to business analysis, and designers whose speciality is designing motion and interactions. You can read more about it in the following article: "A good Product Designer knows a bit of animation, prototyping, coding, research, visual and interaction design."  It’s extremely hard for one person to have all of those skills, and it’s much easier to fill the key roles in your product design process with several people.

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Fortunately, there is a way to avoid this trap – generate as many ideas as possible before you commit to the best option. If you have a team whose members are experienced and knowledgeable, and they trust one another, the idea generation process should be fast and painless.

You also need processes and frameworks to make this happen. At Netguru, we organise product design workshops – a variation of the Design Sprint concept formulated by Google Ventures. It includes two phases: a diverging phase and a converging phase. First, we think individually, then we do some brainstorming, and finally, we question each other’s ideas. In the latter phase, we try to design, prototype and test the viability of an idea, product, or feature in a short timeframe. All of the above enables us to get a full design context and helps in creating further designs for the product.

‘Fire-and-forget’ doesn’t apply to design 

Just like software development, product design is a continuous process. You can create “something” in a week, but it probably won’t be a reliable solution to your or your clients’ problems. 

Final designs should always be tested by real users, then researched, iterated, and tested again. You have to accept that design for web/mobile is never perfect, because the guidelines, criteria, and devices change all the time.

What’s more, your product will need long-term support and continuity in the thinking process and knowledge base. You need people who will remember why certain decisions were taken. Product ownership is not just documentation but, more importantly, a true understanding of the product and the way it works in the real environment.

Wrapping Up

With product design so critical to a product’s success and many users unwilling to give a product a second chance if it fails to impress them, it is important to get it right first time.  

Being the first company to the market with an innovative product is risky, but offers great rewards if it is done with a human-centered approach. 

Conversely, being the tenth company on the market with a similar product is much more demanding and competitive. However, it is easier to fill the functionality gaps of other products with desirable features. 

Research and implementation are key, but without a multi-skilled design team that knows how to delight customers with the best possible experience, innovation is difficult, and the chances of success diminish.

Working as a team won’t do away with all your product design troubles right out of the gate, but it will certainly give you the best possible chance of creating a winning product.

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