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Where does a designer fit in the Product Development Process?

Where does a designer fit in the Product Development Process?
UX/UI Designer
Jul 7, 2022 โ€ข 5 min

As product designers, we are heavily involved in the decision-making process throughout a product’s lifecycle. From the early stages of problem definition to brainstorming solutions in the product’s growth stage, there is no way to avoid the responsibility of making design decisions and having ownership over them. In this article, we aim to present each product development stage and the designer’s impact on them.

Let's begin! ๐Ÿ’ช

Where does a designer fit in the Product Development Process?

Product Development Stages ๐Ÿ—๏ธ

A product development journey is said to be divided into four main stages:

Where does a designer fit in the Product Development Process?

1. Product Strategy ๐Ÿ“

In this stage, for designing new products, designers, product owners, business developers, stakeholders, and clients collaborate closely to identify the problem or need they are trying to solve, find a unique value proposition, build the business model, conduct market research define the target audience, user research, and competition analysis, and finally, set clear and measurable product objectives.

2. Product Design ๐Ÿ–Œ๏ธ

The product design phase follows shortly after the requirements are clear, and we can define a product’s scope and the user journey map. Starting from early assumptions, the design decisions can be materialized into a low-fidelity wireframe for early peer-testing or to (in)validate some proposed solutions. It’s the most extensive stage in the design process because this is where the product takes shape.

3. Development ๐Ÿ› ๏ธ

The development stage usually (but not always, e.g., in Dual-Track Agile process) starts after the design stage is fully completed, and we have clear design deliverables, such as a strong brand identity, a high fidelity prototype, development-ready assets, and well-documented product requirements. Don’t be fooled! Even in the development stage, a designer’s involvement doesn’t stop. Following a methodology like Agile, the product is in a continuous measure-validate-design/develop-iterate-release loop.

4. Launch & Product Growth ๐Ÿš€

This stage is the moment when the product reaches the market, and we can gather data from active users and validate or invalidate the way we anticipate how users interact with the product. This is the time when designers can grow and expand their knowledge the most, deepen their passion for solving problems and refine their research techniques. ๐Ÿคฉ

Where does a designer fit in each product lifecycle stage? ๐Ÿ™‹

A product designer and developer wears many hats throughout this process. From facilitator to researcher to designer & user advocate, their role is an important one for a healthy product approach.
Let’s go through the abovementioned stages again, but now focus on the designer’s contributions and responsibilities. The following design decisions and deliverables are expected:

Where does a designer fit in the Product Development Process?

Product Discovery & Analysis ๐Ÿ”Ž

  • Ensure balance between user needs and business goals, bringing simple but efficient solutions.
  • Assist stakeholders and product owners in making decisions about UX flows and their impact on the end-user and business.
  • Optionally: participate in brainstorming sessions on how the monetization model can be optimized. โšก

Product Design ๐ŸŽจ

  • Wireframing: Using clear product requirements and following user stories closely, the designer can combine the puzzle pieces to find order in chaos. This is the most valuable contribution, where decision-making skills can shine best because the flows’ composition can make or break a product. Usually, the wireframing stage is used to validate/invalidate ideas and gather some feedback before moving into shaping the product more.
  • Branding & Design Systems: After the wireframing stage is complete, the designer can put the creative hat on, giving the product its specific personality through branding, colors, visuals & typography. Building a product using a Design System is a bulletproof way of validating early on that the components used can go into development without a lot of technical constraints and ensuring you build a sustainable way to scale your product. If you want to find out how to design a product using Design Systems, check out this article.
  • UX/UI Design & Prototyping: In the UX/UI stage, designers finally put all the puzzle pieces together to form the complete product. Stakeholder, team, and end-user feedback is expected to appear in this stage the most, with everyone looking at a complete prototype. ๐Ÿ’ป
  • Interactive prototype: The main deliverables after the product design workflow are a high-fidelity prototype that can be used in user testing and usability testing, a development-ready prototype, an identity pack for brand awareness & marketing, and additionally, animations & micro-interactions present in the product.

Development Stage ๐Ÿ‘ท

  • Here, the designer takes the passenger seat but is still present and involved in the process. Usually, this is where the developers need the most guidance, technical solutions are discussed, and design decisions are reconsidered. A designer should maintain an open mind and strong communication between development platforms to keep the solutions consistent.

Product Growth & Optimization ๐ŸŒฑ

  • In this stage, the designer’s role is to be an assistant and advisor, make informed decisions about the strategies used to accomplish business goals such as: increase engagement, identify new user types and how they interact with the product, increase revenue, develop & test new features, update solutions to enable scalability, bringing innovative approaches to better serve users & the market. ๐Ÿ“Š
  • Research methods such as A/B testing and User Interviews. User feedback analysis can guide the product team in making data-driven design decisions.

Conclusion ๐Ÿง 

To sum up, a designer’s contribution to a product development lifecycle isn’t just limited to making sure that the application makes sense from a UX standpoint or designing the UI components. A good designer understands that a holistic approach, considering business goals, user needs, technical constraints & so on, contributes to and heavily impacts the outcome of the product they are designing. I hope you found valuable insights about a designer’s role in the product development stages! ๐Ÿค

If you want to learn more about the big and small decisions that take place throughout the digital product development process, check out how Wolfpack Digital does it!

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