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A UX designer is one of the most in-demand careers in the creative industry right now. Understand the fundamental skills a UX designer should have.
Few fields offer more growth opportunity than user experience (UX). User experience roles are considered to be some of the best jobs in America, according to CNN. Entering this promising industry requires the right training and skills to meet rising business demands.
UX describes all interactions a customer has with a company, its services, and its products, the Nielsen Norman Group explains. Designers who specialize in UX work to ensure all points of contact, from the opening of a product’s box to the layout of its digital interfaces, are easy and enjoyable to navigate. The UX skills that designers need are varied, stemming from areas such as graphic design, psychology, engineering, and marketing. UX designers must cultivate a wheelhouse of both applied and soft skills to excel.
When students possess an applied skill, they have knowledge of a specific competency. This might, for example, mean gaining familiarity with UX tools such as Adobe Creative Suite.
UX designers can benefit from mastering these five applied skills.
To effectively perform their jobs, UX designers must understand what their audiences want and how they view the world. This means mastering the ability to plan, conduct, and analyze findings from a variety of research methods, UXmatters explains. Aptitudes in user testing and analytical research are particularly helpful.
Information architecture involves organizing information in an understandable manner. Applicable to websites, apps, software, printed materials, and even physical spaces, information architecture may include systems like labeling, navigation, and search functions.
A wireframe is a blueprint for each screen of an interface. Its main purpose is to show how something works, not how it looks. Wireframing defines the elements that need to be present from page to page. It includes all the interface components that are needed for all possible interactions and is generally designed in gray scale, using boxes and lines.
Prototypes allow designers to test functionality. They help designers to ensure there is a match between a system and its users before construction on the final product begins. Prototypes allow designers to test both page functionality and overall navigation. As problems are identified, the UX designer may go through several iterations before landing on a design that meets both business and user goals. UX designers should have the ability to prototype quickly and effectively.
Because design is highly graphic in nature, UX designers need to be competent in visual language. Proficiency in visual communication includes an understanding of concepts like:
In addition to mastering technical requirements, UX designers must have certain “soft skills,” or aptitudes applied to multiple work settings. These might include qualities such as adaptability or self-awareness. “Soft” UX design skills may include the following.
Professionals who are curious have the capacity to engage with clients, products, and challenges in meaningful ways. Curiosity leads to asking insightful questions, active listening, and engaging more deeply with problems. UX is a consistently changing field. Developing a sense of curiosity helps designers keep up.
Empathy is the ability to understand and feel the emotions of others. UX emphasizes a positive customer experience. That’s why the best UX designers take the time to learn about people and their inclinations. A deep understanding of end users allows designers to create products that truly engage and delight.
Communication is essential in UX. Designers must convey product ideas, explain thinking behind designs, and work with other teams. Their work also requires elements of storytelling. Effective communication skills help designers create, collaborate, adapt, and improve products and systems with ease.
Good UX design means incorporating the ideas of developers, clients, and team members. UX designers need to effectively give and receive feedback, explore solutions, and incorporate the expertise and needs of everyone involved in a project to create the best products possible.
If you want to gain an edge in the UX industry, you have numerous options available.
Online degree programs provide you with groundwork to base your career on. The digital format of online programs offers invaluable hands-on training. Earning higher education credentials also provides a boost in your job search. However, beware of short-term programs. Learning UX for a week might be interesting, but it won’t necessarily help build the foundation for a successful career.
Learn from the best, by staying on top of the publications, blogs, and social media postings of the UX industry giants.
Knowing other UX professionals means opportunities for professional development and employment. Societies such as the User Experience Professionals Association or AIGA (the professional association for design) can provide valuable support and community.
Perhaps the best way to improve your UX design skills is to enroll in a university degree program. At Lesley University, you can find the resources you need to establish your UX career.
At Lesley University, the online BS in Design for User Experience equips students with the training they need to influence and inspire in the field of UX. Students will learn how to research, interpret, conceptualize, and design interfaces that create more holistic and interconnected user experiences. This asynchronous, interdisciplinary program allows students to begin or refocus their careers to successfully work in a wide array of contexts and work environments.
It’s important to start by saying there’s no commonly accepted definition for UX design.
User experience design is a concept that has many dimensions, and it includes a bunch of different disciplines—such as interaction design, information architecture, visual design, usability, and human-computer interaction.
But let’s try to get a clearer picture of what that really means.
According to a study from the Oxford Journal Interacting With Computers:
The goal of UX design in business is to “improve customer satisfaction and loyalty through the utility, ease of use, and pleasure provided in the interaction with a product.”
In other words, UX design is the process of designing (digital or physical) products that are useful, easy to use, and delightful to interact with. It’s about enhancing the experience that people have while interacting with your product, and making sure they find value in what you’re providing.
But unfortunately, that isn’t a comprehensive explanation of UX design either. So to help you get a better understanding of what it really is, we reached out to 15 thought leaders in the space and asked them:
What is UX design?
Said differently: “How would you describe UX design to someone who was learning about it for the first time?”
Here’s what they had to say:
“If UX is the experience that a user has while interacting with your product, then UX Design is, by definition, the process by which we determine what that experience will be.
UX Design always happens. Whether it’s intentional or not, somebody makes the decisions about how the human and the product will interact. Good UX Design happens when we make these decisions in a way that understands and fulfills the needs of both our users and our business.”
“Your question is simple, the answer is a little complicated, and it sometimes can be controversial.
User Experience Design is an approach to design that takes into account all the aspects of a product or service with the user. That includes not only the beauty and function: (usability and accessibility) of a product or a flow, but also things like delight, and emotion—things that are harder to engineer and achieve.
While a designer can create a toggle, a flow, or an interaction that is beautiful, unique, sexy, and functional in a flow—UXD extends into all the disciplines that come together to make the user experience as a whole great.
Yes, you have interaction designers, but you also have content strategists, information architects, user researchers, engineers, and product managers—all of whom have a shared responsibility to create an experience that is easy to use, and leaves users pleased because it is adding value to them.”
“UX Design is an empathically-driven practice crafted to solve human and business problems, and remove obstacles and friction from a user’s desired goals—hopefully delivering delight in the process.”
“User Experience Design (UXD or UED) is a design process whose sole objective is to design a system that offers a great experience to its users. Thus UXD embraces the theories of a number of disciplines such as user interface design, usability, accessibility, information architecture, and Human Computer Interaction.
User Experience Design is practiced by User Experience Designers—who are particularly concerned with the interaction that occurs between users and the system they are using.
So, for example, a UX designer would take the principles that state how to make a product accessible, and actually embody those principles in the design process of a system so that a user that is interacting with it would find it as being accessible.”
“In 100 words? Yikes! (There go four of them already. Oops. Make that ten.) Here goes: The deliberately squishy term “User Experience” encompasses UX Research (figuring out how people perceive and interact with a product, system, or service) and UX design (improving or manipulating how useful/easy/pleasant/marketable/addictive it is to use it). UX descended from Ergonomics, User Centered Design, and Usability/Information Architecture until in the wake of the success of the iPhone it morphed into the current 46 subspecialties and flavors du jour. From its noble heritage of advocacy for the user (“improving the user’s experience”), it has displayed an alarming tendency to lean towards advocacy for the producer (maximizing usage/sales/addiction). [Sorry for turning dark there at the end.]”
“User experience design is the culmination of content, research, design and strategy and its effect on the delivery, selling and use of a digital product or service. In many instances, a user experience happens by the incidental smashing together of code and assumptions about people, so I think the distinction is in brands that recognize the value of a carefully crafted digital experience. In many ways, it is the fulfillment of a brand’s promise and recognition that how customers’ feel has a huge commercial impact.”
“UX design is the art and science of generating positive emotions among people who interact with products or services.”
“UX design is a commitment to building products that are created with the customer in mind. It starts with studying who the customers are and what they need and taking that information to provide products and services that improve the quality of people’s lives.
Design ideas are validated through real customer feedback and iterated on to ensure the final product will work well for those that will be using it.”
“If we look at an interactive thing like a website or a device or a piece of software, designing the user experience for that thing is the creative and analytical process of determining what it’s going to be—what it’s going to do for people, how they’ll use it, and what it looks/sounds/feels/smells/tastes like.”
“For me UX design is so much more than just designing for a screen. The user experience is impacted by decisions made across an organization from the boardroom to the way a developer codes for performance.
Take for example the new Disney Magicband. This doesn’t have a graphic user interface and yet creates an amazing experience using sensors and well-implemented customer service.”
“UX Design is simply design with an awareness of all the touchpoints that comprise the overall experience with your product/service. So it goes beyond screen and visual design to things like email correspondence, the way people answer phones, marketing messages, return policies, release notes, and everything in between.
It is critical to focus on the entire experience in the Internet Age because it is likely you will never meet many of your customers face-to-face. Eventually, though, the letters “UX” will fade away and it will be understood that all of these things are part of designing any product or service.”
“UX Design is the purposeful application of logic and rationale for creating experiences that offer both utility and value to the end user. It’s a process of deeply understanding the user’s needs and objectives, identifying where their greatest problems exist, and working generatively to ideate ways to solve these problems. Rarely centered on the creation of a single screen, UX Design is instead the intentional act of crafting countless interactions that span the entire user journey within a given product experience while also adhering to brand, design and usability standards.”
“User Experience is a commitment to developing products and services with purpose, compassion, and integrity. It is the never-ending process of seeing the world from the customers’ perspective and working to improve the quality of their lives.
It is the never-ending process of maintaining the health of the business and finding new ways to help it grow sustainably. It is the perfect balance between making money and making meaning.”
(Note: If you want to read more about Whitney’s take on user experience, check out this article.)
While I understand you’re targeting the big picture, as a user researcher I think of UX *design* specifically as interaction design, a piece of the UX pie along with a whole host of other UX skill sets, some which are fully design-oriented and some which are not. I’ve been in more than one situation where people referred to me as a UX designer who does research. Of course, there are people who are UX designers that do research, but not me. My UX identity is simply that of a plain old researcher. As such, I fall into another piece of the UX pie—intimately connected with UX design—but still only parallel.”
“Many people state that experience cannot be designed because experiences are something people have—not something that can be designed. On one hand, I completely agree.
On the other hand, UX enables us to identify what makes a good experience versus a bad one. And when done well, the designed elements of an experience become invisible and the user is delighted because we have anticipated their needs to give them something they don’t think to ask for.”
As you can see, UX design has multiple interpretations but it’s really all about keeping your users at the center of everything you create.
A lot of ink has been spilled telling the stories of companies felled by digital disruption— think Kodak or Blockbuster. What gets far less attention is the way traditional incumbents are winning at the digital game. For companies like Starbucks, John Deere, and Unilever, digital is driving new sources of competitive advantage, growth, and value creation. Incumbents have huge advantages—resources, customer relationships, and global scale, to name just a few—that when tied to the right digital strategy give them the edge over smaller rivals.
In our experience, successful digital transformation must rest on a foundation of smart digital strategy. And smart digital strategy, like traditional business strategy, is about making wise investment choices to maximize competitive advantage, growth, profit, and value—and then implementing with discipline.
In many traditional industries, the digital winners’ circle is still up for grabs. Here are five rules for how to get the most from your digital strategy. (See Exhibit 1.)
Good digital strategy starts with a rich understanding of the competitive environment and how it’s likely to change. Because new technologies can radically reshape business economics, it’s essential to think through the implications for your own organization and your broader ecosystem of customers, suppliers, and partners. What new offerings can digital enable? What new competitors can it empower?
The impact and opportunities of digital will vary by industry and by function. Core business processes can be reinvented; for example, supply chains are being reconfigured thanks to Industry 4.0, making it possible to operate smaller, more flexible facilities closer to customers that can rapidly deliver new products tailored to local demand patterns. Digital platforms and their related ecosystems can offer access to borderless global markets—consider Airbnb. And digital services, often data driven, can radically enhance differentiation and lock in customers—think predictive maintenance offerings to increase uptime of aircraft.
The key is to open your mind to the full range of strategic possibilities—and risks—that digital brings. What are the essential technologies and their cost implications? What new capabilities could be required? What new and advantaged positions could you occupy in the future?
Consider Domino’s Pizza. Digital wouldn’t replace pizza, but the company realized that digital could strengthen its advantage in speed and convenience. Its consumer-facing mobile app streamlined the steps for ordering and receiving a pizza (and capturing happy-customer feedback). An interesting fact: Domino’s and Google both went public in 2004. If you’d invested a dollar in both, you’d have made more money with Domino’s.
Organizations that win at digital start by thinking big—whether seeking to strengthen existing advantages or to tap new ones. The best digital strategies aspire to move the needle on value creation. This is especially true because in so many digital domains, network effects create winner-takes-all situations, in which first movers and smart fast followers have the edge.
Digital strategies fail more often because of too little ambition rather than too much. Kodak invented digital photography, and Blockbuster developed an online movie platform before Netflix did. But these historically successful, market-leading organizations starved those opportunities for funding and organizational focus because they prioritized their legacy businesses.
The coffee company Starbucks embraced digital to make up for lagging same-store sales. It found new ways for customers to order and pay for their coffee by developing a mobile payment app and rolling out digital loyalty programs. The result? Mobiles sales increased twice as fast as in-store sales.
The car manufacturer Renault set, and achieved, an explicit goal to drive a 25% increase in EBIT with its digital strategy. And it jumped in with both feet, running 15 pilots across all functions—from marketing through production—to understand where digital could give the greatest lift.
And keep in mind that digital strategies in many industries are increasingly also ecosystem strategies. Rarely does a company have in its organization all the necessary elements (expertise, intellectual property, customer access, and so on). (See Exhibit 2 for a list of the characteristics such ecosystems share.)
Where to start, and in what order? “Let a thousand flowers bloom” may make for nice landscaping, but it is bad strategy. In general, focusing on the two or three most valuable use cases lends greater clarity and delivers the best results.
It’s important to manage priority initiatives as a portfolio and roll out the ones with short-term impact first. Short-term wins (typically in areas like precision marketing, AI-driven pricing and promotion, and digitally driven cost reduction) will help fund the journey by freeing up capital and releasing resources needed for more strategic high-impact priorities down the road. A portfolio approach also makes it possible to demonstrate progress to key stakeholders: board members, investors, and the organization.
Unilever has invested decisively in digital across its value chain, with a particular strategic focus on harnessing data as an enterprise-wide asset that supports precision marketing, manufacturing, distribution, and performance management. The company captures 1.5 terabytes of data daily from more than 150 sources in its data lake—and plans to have 24 digital hubs in 24 countries by 2020.
In identifying the right set of bets, a customer-centric lens that focuses on both competitive advantage and value creation is critical. Ask: Of all the customer pain points and compromises that digital can address, which are we uniquely positioned to address, and of those, which have the greatest value potential?
John Deere, in its agricultural business, began with use cases anchored in the jobs farmers were trying to optimize: planting seeds optimally, adding just the right amount of nutrients, and putting the minimum amount of chemicals on their crops to prevent pests and weeds. This led to significant innovations—for example, the “see and spray” technology, which allows individual weeds to be identified through a combination of optical sensors and machine learning algorithms, and then killed through highly engineered and individually controlled spraying nozzles.
A properly ambitious digital strategy inevitably calls for new capabilities and cultural shifts. The organization needs to build new strategic muscles to complement its traditional strengths—and to ensure that new and old work together in an agile and coordinated way.
New digital talent is critical, but increasingly scarce. So just as important—and often underestimated—is redeploying existing talent and skills to the initiatives that can make the most of it. With both new and existing talent, think through what resources and capabilities can be shared across business units, divisions, or regions rather than that which needs to be dedicated to a single place. And develop a workforce that does not adhere to fixed roles, but evolves with the needs and pace of emerging digital initiatives. Don’t worry about defining an end-state organization at the outset—a multistage process that adapts on the basis of experience and digital maturity makes more sense.
Establishing a “digital” culture in these ways is essential to a successful digital strategy. It helps attract talent, particularly millennials, who are drawn to opportunities for autonomy and creativity. And because of the flatter organizational structure that comes from agile ways of working, companies can achieve superior results, faster than a traditional organization.
While there is no need to completely rewrite the transformation rule book when it comes to digital, some issues will need your attention—such as the rate at which the critical underlying technologies for your industry are evolving, and thus how often you should revisit the underlying strategy to refresh the transformation plan.
Technological progress can be linear or discontinuous. In industries with slower-moving technologies, traditional top-down strategy development approaches work. But planning three years out can set you up for executional failure if changes in technologies and market dynamics shift more rapidly. In these faster-moving, more unpredictable industries, you will need a Fast Execution Needs Fast Strategy to planning, one that balances strategic alignment from above with market insight from below.
As with any organizational transformation, maintaining a strong center will be critical. That’s where program management lives, ensuring process standardization, data management, and talent acquisition. A transformation office, led by a chief digital transformation officer, can keep up the momentum, rigorously tracking progress against detailed goals, milestones, and metrics—and signal when it’s time to adjust course.
Not all digital transformations succeed. Those that do reflect a robust digital strategy that follows the five simple rules we’ve just described. They’ll ensure you get the most out of your people and digital investments by aligning them with the critical moves that drive competitive advantage and superior results.
Product designers (nowadays intended as digital product designers, while physical product designers are more commonly called industrial designers) are some of the most sought-after professionals by tech companies today. But, despite the popularity, there is a lot of confusion around what this role is about, and I believe it’s impossible to give an exact definition, considering that every company has slightly different responsibilities and requirements attached to this position.
I heard a lot of people saying product designer is just a new more trendy and siliconvalleyish way of calling a UX designer. I do not agree. I think a product designer is a more horizontal position compared to a UX designer. A product designer should take care of, or at least be involved in, all the steps of the creation of a digital product.
Even though this is a transdisciplinary role, it doesn’t mean that a product designer should be able to do everything alone. It should know at least a little bit of everything though.
Here is an example of the skillset of a hypothetic product designer:
The height of each bar can be different for every individual, of course.
Let’s take a look at what each one of those represents and why it is important.
Design is not art. Ultimately design has to be sold. To do so, the first step in each project is research. Research on the market, on competitors, on target users and the feasibility of the project, you can have the craziest ideas, but in the end, you’ll have to stick to a certain budget.
To come up with concepts that make sense to pursue, it’s important to know what the market is, what are the chances of your product to succeed. You can even consider doing a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats).
Strategy should be one of the core skills of a product designer.
Even though in the chart above UX is just one of the columns, it actually spills over many others. Usability, accessibility, information architecture, good wireframing are the basics of any project. After researching the market and the target users, in this phase the product designer defines personas, users journeys, understand pain points and find opportunities.
A product designer should have a good understanding of how HCI (Human-Computer Interaction) works. Some possible questions to answer: what gesture could trigger this action? Is this going to be a modal, a drawer or something else? Is this contextual menu triggered by a double-tap or a long press? Etc.
The aesthetic-usability effect is the “tendency to perceive attractive products as more usable. People tend to believe that things that look better will work better — even if they aren’t actually more effective or efficient”.
In Italy, we say “anche l’occhio vuole la sua parte”, which is hard to translate literally, but it basically means “looks matter”.
Text can be both in the UI (UX writing) and in the content (Copywriting). A text can be the label of an icon, a CTA inside a button or anywhere it’s needed to help users through a particular flow. As much as UI, motion and sounds it helps to set the tone of the product.
It’s not enough for things to look good, they also need to move in the right way. Movement is important not only to please the eye and delight users, but also to provide feedback, to clarify hierarchy, to enhance interactions and make them memorable.
Also, microinteractions (for example animated icons) are a very important component of today’s products.
This often goes together with motion. Sounds can also provide feedback and they can set the mood of the product, along with UI. UI, motion, and sound should work well together in perfect harmony.
Product designers don’t need to be musicians or sound designers, but they should be able to understand where a sound is needed and what kind of sound fits best in that particular case.
I wrote a full article on this topic. To sum it up: no, you don’t need to be able to write code, but having a basic understanding of how code works can be REALLY helpful, to understand the feasibility of a project and to talk with developers and give them the right feedback.
On this topic, I’m reading right now a very interesting book by John Maeda, called “How to speak machine”.
I won’t annoy you with the usual “content is king” (Bill Gates) thing, but yea, of course, depending on the kind of product, content plays a key role. The product designer should also understand and define not only what’s the best way to present content inside the app/website, but also what this content is and how to design it.
The life of a product heavily depends on marketing (among other things). Marketing can be the tool to drive the critical mass that makes the difference between a success and a failure. This should start to tickle the interest of the target users even before the product is out in the wild, and then push it as high as possible, the sky’s the limit. If a product is not marketable, there must be something fundamentally wrong in its concept and/or execution.
ASO (App Store Optimization) is the app-world version of SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Grasping at least the basics of these could make a huge difference. ASO is not just about keywords and description, but also sizzle reel, icon and screenshots.
User testing can come into play way before the product is out. It can be used to test a particular feature or interaction, a component and more. Depending on the methodology you could have or not user testing, maybe you release and MVP and test with real users a limited version of your app on which you then iterate future releases. In this case it’s important to be able to read and understand analytics, find what is working and what is not based on data and charts and come up with improvements.
The product designer shouldn’t be a one-man-band taking care of all the above alone, but she/he should be the conductor of an orchestra of specialists.
She/he can take care of one or more aspects of the app creation, if she/he has the right skill set to do so, but has to get the support of a team for all the rest.
To complete the chart above, the relationship could something like this, with each vertical role covering where the product designer alone can’t reach with her/his skills:
As I mentioned in the beginning, it’s hard to give an exact definition as the role has a very blurred perimeter, varying quite a bit from company to company, also depending on how the team is structured. But I believe the product designer should, in any case, be a horizontal figure with a wide array of skills and possibly 1 or 2 vertical ones, in what is often defined as a T-shaped role.
There is a myriad of methods out there to choose from when it comes to the product design process and development. In this article, we would like to give an overview of the steps and frameworks we consider essential and provide a toolbox you can pick ideas from when designing a Minimum Viable Product, which is the first version of a product with just enough features to satisfy early customers, create value and provide feedback for future development.
The ideal product design process can vary depending on different factors, such as the project scope, the size of the company, budget, deadlines — just to mention a few. In a good design process, the business requirements meet the user needs, which are satisfied within the feasible technical possibilities.
Even UX studio’s product designers don’t have just one, crystal clear and always followable guide for design processes. We all see the necessity of getting together from time to time and share our experience and knowledge acquired from different projects and clients with each other, so we can improve our processes effectively, meeting the requirements and demands of the market.
We encourage an Agile style of work, working in design sprints, but we are flexible. Should you need help with product design, fill out our contact form and let’s discuss how we can help you.
The Double Diamond is a product design process with four phases: Discover, Define, Develop, and Deliver. The product design process starts with a “diverging phase” of the diamond, a problem, and topic discovery. We do not define anything yet, but we step back a little and open our minds to new insights.
The second part of the diamond — Develop and Deliver — mainly feeds from the product discovery findings. However, the Discover-Develop tracks can also run in simultaneously and support and feed into one another at regular intervals, so this is not a linear process.
Product discovery is the preliminary phase of every human-centred product design process, and its purpose is to base the product idea on real demand.
However, carrying out research is important not just at the beginning, but during the project as well, whenever there are too many open questions and uncertainties. Validating ideas helps us to avoid burning money and waste time.
We need to reach out to both the stakeholders and the users to explore the problem (and opportunity) space and find the real pain points we want solutions for.
There are two frequently used product discovery activities we’ll be looking into a bit more:
Meet the client, understand the current state of the project and the additional knowledge needed.
Workshop techniques are great for acquiring domain knowledge in a topic and get acquainted with the stakeholders. To create the first draft of our roadmap, we start every project with a kick-off workshop that usually takes about one to two days. At this time, we get to know the company, its processes, and roles and gather all information we can about the project.
If the client already has some quantitative and qualitative data about the market, client segmentation, competitors, target group, buyer personas, we go through them, make a common understanding of the objectives and facts, and build assumptions and hypotheses.
The more variety of expertise involved in the workshops, the more insights we can utilize from different stakeholders of the company. It’s important to understand experiences on previous solutions and key business objectives (such as KPIs, success criteria).
Kick-off workshop techniques frequently used by us:
/Note: At this point, most of the workshop deliverables are assumptive, and that’s fine because we’re going to research what we need to validate or change.
At the end of the kick-off workshops, we should have a clear overview of what we don’t know but should do so we can create a research plan to kickstart our discovery.
If you’d like to know more about how to organize a kick-off workshop, check out this article.
There are a couple of research methods out there; however, in the discovery phase of a product design process, we don’t aim to evaluate possible solutions yet as that comes later with usability tests. Still, we may already have assumptions to validate, and we certainly need to have a well-defined topic and a target group that is interested in our topic. At the same time, it’s crucial to keep an open mind to be able to discover entirely new aspects and problems of our audience.
Of course, the research method that requires the least experience and professional knowledge is desk research, available for anyone who has a computer with internet access, an account for social platforms and some time to dig up the pain-points of online communities, find opinions and reviews shared in social platforms, forums, mailing lists, or blog comments.
Diary study can also be useful in some cases, or, if you want to gather data on a larger scale, you can use online surveys — preferably with a mixture of open-ended and closed questions — that can be used with qualitative insights from other methods.
Research methods we frequently use:
This step is about making sense of the data, synthesizing them, choosing one main goal to solve, figuring out the “How” and the “What”.
By the end of the discovery phase, we are likely to have enough insight to synthesize our findings, refine our previous assumptive deliverables or create new ones by user analysis, define the core problem we want to solve, build themes, and deduce potential fields of action.
There are many synthesizing activities to use, such as:
These exercises can be used at various points of the product design process; at the very beginning, in an assumptive way, it can help with synthesizing the research data and define the project scope, but it can also be applied when ideating about solutions. The when and how really depends on the team, project, and available insights. In the following section, we focus on the methods we use the most.
These are fictional (yet realistic) representatives, archetypes of our key user groups with certain goals and characteristics. We use personas to help us understand and map out the main segments of our users, with their different goals, and motivations. We can also use them to help us empathize with them in order to make a more suitable product.
At UX Studio, we do create assumptive, theoretical persona mock-ups at kick-off meetings. If provided, we can use already existing research data (e.g., survey results, built buyer personas, or other related market research findings) to start off with, but at this point in the design process, our personas should be validated and based on real user research data.
How we create personas:
There are many contradictory opinions out there about whether it’s good to give names and faces to personas, or if demographic data is relevant if it needs to be printed or should include an empathy map, and so on. This is how we usually do it:
There are plenty of methods for synthesizing information, but we only dig deeper into the ones we use most frequently. You can find a few related, downloadable templates here.
JTBD is another framework we can use to find out more about the users’ needs and preferences. It is absolutely compatible with user personas, so often used together.
The personas focus more on the users’ behavior and attitude, thus helps with empathizing and segmenting the different types of users, while the JTBD places a more significant emphasis on features, aims to discover the purpose why people ‘hire’ a product in order to solve a specific problem and fulfill a need.
A famous JTBD example is about McDonalds milkshake. When the company wanted to increase the profit on their milkshake product, they first started interviews with representatives of their persona groups, the customer types they knew to be the main milkshake consumers.
The researchers tested the temperature, the viscosity, and the sweetness of the milkshake with this group, but they couldn’t find out what the problem was and how they should improve the product.
So they tried another approach; started observing and interviewing consumers onsite, in McDonald’s restaurants. It turned out that people bought milkshakes mainly to keep them full till lunch and entertained them for the whole journey of driving to work.
As a result, McDonald’s made the shake thicker to last longer while commuting and moved the milkshake machine from behind the counter to the front, where the customers could easily and rapidly buy a milkshake with a prepaid card when rushing to work, avoiding the queues. Solving the real job-to-be-done, resulted in a sevenfold increase in the sales of the milkshake.
“How Might We”
The HMW exercise is a great way to narrow down problems and to discover possible opportunity areas.
We are not looking for exact executions on solutions here yet, but rather brainstorm, explore questionable areas of one core challenge while keeping an open mindset for innovative thinking.
For this to work, first, we need a clear vision or goal, a Point-Of-View statement that is made based on a deeper user need discovery. The POW should be human-centred, neither too narrow, to sustain creative freedom when brainstorming, nor too broad, so it remains manageable.
For defining the POW statement, your previously made personas and jobs-to-be-done (as a result of your user’s need discovery) come in handy. By synthesizing the essential needs to fulfill, you can make a template like this to create your statement:
[User . . . (descriptive)] needs [Need . . . (verb)] because [Insight . . . (compelling)]
Once you have the POW statement, you are ready to form short questions that can launch brainstorming on actionable ideas. For example:
How might we…?
In What Ways Might We….?
What’s stopping us from…?
In what ways could we…?
What would happen if…?
Then you may ask follow-up questions on the previous questions to examine the angles a bit deeper.
By completing HMW sessions, we can get one step closer to forming ideas about exact solutions and executing the best solution.
Look and feel, mood boards, branding
Of course, at this point, we’re far from creating high-fidelity prototypes and design systems, but it’s important to set a couple of broad, basic directions to have a general idea of where we’re heading and keep nurturing the creative imagination as we progress in the design process.
Depending on how many designers working on a project, you can share the workload and either work on the same design or split up the tasks and progress simultaneously (e.g., one does the prototyping and the other building the design system and hi-fi part).
At this point, we should have a condensed brief of research findings, a strategy, and a clear idea about what problem we want to solve.
The tips and techniques mentioned here can be done or can at least be started way before this step; remember, this is not a linear process and you may use these techniques in a different order at different times of the project timeline.
The developing/ideation phase begins when we have a good understanding of the project goals, and we narrowed down what we want to solve first.
(Note: by development, we don’t mean any code-related development yet).
If there are still open questions about what features we should start with, the Kano model and Impact-Effort Matrix could serve us well.
User journeys/customer journeys
Both customer journeys and user journeys are tools for mapping out the flows users go through, using a service or an application with one specific task to carry out.
Customer journeys/experience maps encounter the online and offline aspects of the users’ flow, providing a more holistic view of the process. As the output, the customer journey diagram basically lays out a big table. The columns of the table represent different phases or steps a customer goes through.
These can be unique in every project, but most customer journeys contain three phases: before, during, and after the usage of our product.
These can be unique in every project, but most customer journeys contain three phases: before, during and after the usage of our product.
As opposed to customer journeys, user journeys analyze a smaller part of the journey, focusing only on what happens in the application; for example, during a sign-up process. At UX Studio, we mainly use user journeys, but for longer projects with a bigger scope, especially if there is already existing user data about the customers and there is a journey that goes beyond application usage (e.g., arriving at the airport and using a ticket machine software), the customer journey is the preferred tool.
How we do user journeys:
User story creation is a good way to define features with stakeholders. What we want to accomplish in the product, why, and as what kind of user. It helps us stay focused on what features are necessary and what could lead to a “feature creep.”
As a sales agent, I want to turn more leads into customers so I can increase my income.
And a more detailed version of the example above:
As a sales agent, I want to keep track of unprocessed hot leads so I can make sure I don’t miss out on an ‘easy’ deal.
We can do it in several ways and styles, if we do it with developers, it may become more technical and scrum-oriented.
Building the IA, sketching and wireframing
Building an Information Architecture is basically the blueprint of the design structure, the foundation of our first wireframes. IA is formed by creating a hierarchy and categorization of the information that results in a coherent, meaningful, navigable system. How we sort out the features, functions, and available data in our product will have a great impact on the user experience.
Our best intentions with features can diminish if users don’t find them.
Card sorting is a great technique to validate our IA. You can do it on paper, but there are online tools that you can use, such as Optimal Workshop.
You may start sketching way earlier, right at the beginning when the first problems gain their shapes. Sketching is great not only to serve as the base when building something but also to help understand a problem and share ideas within the team.
Sketching on paper, where complex interfaces and functions of the software don’t limit or distract us, is an effective and rapid way to explore ideas and spot any design problems early on.
We don’t need to be skillful sketch artists or graphic designers who can draw and paint photo-realistically. The point here is not to create a refined artifact, but to focus on single ideas, flows, and possible layouts, and use simple placeholder boxes for images and text. It’s about exploring ideas of execution, so no need to worry about the copy yet.
It’s very recommended to showcase these first sketches and wireframes to the developers and other team members at an early stage because they can assist us with information on what is feasible technically, which saves us from unnecessary rework.
A blank paper and a pencil are all you need, but if you’d like some guidance, you can download sketch mockup sheets from here.
The output, a wireframe, is basically the skeleton of our upcoming prototypes — a barebone, static structure that will soon evolve to a refined design. Wireframes can be made on digital platforms as well using tools such as Axure, Adobe XD, Sketch, Figma, or even Photoshop.
At this point, you should have the concept, the “what to do”, and the strategy of how to prioritize. We have the definition of our MVP, the core features, the core problem we want to solely focus on.
If you are searching for the most suitable UX agency, contact us, and let’s see how our UX experts can help you with your current challenge.
Prototype, test, iterate, implement.
This phase is all about doing the right thing in the right way, reaching our goal, refining our MVP, and implementing the solutions.
Making our ideas tangible with quick prototypes and test them out as soon as you can save a ton of time and resources. For the sake of definition, what we call a prototype here is a modest-looking clickable digital product that resembles the features we aim to develop, but in a simplified way.
Paper prototypes exist too, but we prefer the freedom and opportunities only digital solutions can provide. The goal here is to find out the usability issues before starting the detailed designs to avoid burning time and doing reworks.
How we build prototypes:
Create the first protos as soon as you can and evaluate them for usability tests. Refine your prototype iteratively after every usability test until you’re confident that you ruled out every major usability risk. (And of course, later on, continue usability testing before and during every new feature.)
Now that you have the base of a usable product, it’s time to make the whole thing sexy by adding the visual attributes, colors, icons, shadows, and images and refine the look and feel. The product’s design language has to be in harmony with the target audience and should be aligned with the brand’s vision. When testing the high-fidelity prototypes, visual elements are also important, and it leads to creating a stable, harmonized design system that you can rely on.
Quick tips for hi-fi prototypes:
Ideating and prototyping should be an iterated process, such as continuous discovery with user research beyond MVPs.
Launching the MVP product doesn’t mean the job is done, and the product design process is over. Testing and designing should be an ongoing, iterative process that is the key to improve the product and bring it to success.
Follow along with the metrics; get client feedback, use analytic tools and heatmaps (such as Google Analytics, Countly, Hotjar), do A/B testing, and measure the success of your choices.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, this collection of ideas and steps are not set in stone, simply aimed to raise awareness of the available tools and methods to start off a product design process. The whole process becomes super iterative when working in a dynamic environment, such as agile.
The main takeaways perhaps are to make your process user-centered, apply design thinking, and execute it as a non-linear, iterated process. Do user research whenever you can to design with the people, not just for them.
UX studio has successfully handled 250+ collaborations with clients worldwide.
Is there anything we can do for you at this moment? Get in touch with us, and let’s discuss your current challenges.
Our experts would be happy to assist with the UX strategy, product and user research, and UX/UI design.
The internet is no place for a slow website. The average Google user (i.e. your customers) just won’t put up with websites that take too long to load.
Naturally, this sort of behavior is what led the search engine to include site speed as a ranking factor ever since 2010.
Of course, Google has always been good at the “carrot and stick” approach. In this case, the carrot was some simple encouragement to work on site speed (“Hey, we really want websites to be a better experience for users and you should totally work on that.), which then turned into a stick when things weren’t changing fast enough (Your site’s still too slow! Looks like new penalties for you!).
This ranking factor then also started to have an impact on the mobile algorithm, too.
And yet, despite the seven years or so that site speed has officially been a ranking factor, many websites still struggle with it.
The thing is, there are a lot of factors that act as a type of speedbump on your path to internet success. And a lot of those things are either built into the structure of the website, part of a flashy design trend, or added in as an app or widget.
It’s hard for websites to give up the flashy bits that seem so modern and, well, flashy. And it’s hard to want to dive into all that old coding or wade through all the parts of the structure that could be slowing a site down.
But there are some simple things that anyone can do to spot the major speedbumps that are in your way and clean some of them up.
There are a lot of things that could be weighing down your site, including:
Site speed matters because Google wants to appease its searchers. And searchers don’t want to wait.
Google ain’t gonna help ya out if they think you can’t deliver the answers that people want as quickly as possible. They want their users to “Trust In The Algorithm,” and that means the algorithm has to deliver relevant content along with the best user experience.
A fast-loading page delivers a better user experience. It helps visitors see what you have to offer, makes it easy for them to complete order forms, and lets them navigate right over to the next possible purchase.
In other words, site speed is an integral part of user experience.
There have been studies over the years that show a definite correlation between site speed and increased conversions and returns. In one case, Walmart found that they could get a 2% increase in conversions for every 1 second of site speed improvement.
Now, 1 second may not seem like a lot, but it actually when you’re talking about load times that are 4 or 5 seconds in the first place, you’re actually talking about a 25% increase. So how about this: the study also found that for every 100 milliseconds of improvement, revenues grew by up to 1%.
But what happens if we look at this from the other side. What would happen to your revenues for every 1 second of increased load time? Can you expect conversions to drop by that much?
It’s better if you never have to face this problem yourself, so let’s just focus on keeping websites running as fast and smoothly as possible.
Keeping the site speed as fast as possible can seem a little overwhelming at first. There are just so many variables that could be contributing to the problem.
Where would you start? What elements have the largest impact on the load speed? What can be changed to get the most immediate impact? What… is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow? (11 meters per second, but it must be one of “those” days if I’m already defaulting to Monty Python quotes….)
The simple answer is to start by going straight to the people who are judging your site. They have a very clear list of how they’ll be judging you in this respect.
You can start by heading over to PageSpeed Insights and have Google analyze your site speed. This will give you a good overview of your current situation and where you can make improvements.
Of course, this might be filled with a more technical jargon that you really want to deal with, but you can check out this page to learn more about the specifics of Google’s Speed and Usability Rules.
For now, we’ll just take a quick look at them all so you have a basic overview on the elements that contribute to site speed.
Avoid landing page redirects – A redirect adds additional request-response cycles, which is just adding more work before a page can be displayed.
Enable compression on your website resources – You can reduce the size of the transferred data by up to 90%.
Find ways to improve server response time – Your server response time should be less than 200ms.
Take advantage of browser caching – Some resources can be cached by the browser to load previously downloaded resources from the local disc instead of the network.
Optimize your images – Optimized images have reduced their file size without impacting the quality to save many bytes of data.
Optimize CSS and HTML coding – External stylesheets have to be downloaded and processed, which can extend the time it takes to render the page.
Prioritize your visible content – If many trips to the network are required to render the things that appear above the fold, it can cause a problem.
Use asynchronous scripts – Asynchronous scripts load more quickly, which means users don’t have to wait for a script to finish loading before the page fully renders.
There are a wide range of tools available that can help you deal with many of these things.
Avoid plugins when possible – This has become more important with the trend towards mobile, since many of these plugins lead to hangs, crashes, and other problems. There are a lot of native web technologies that can do the same things these days.
Configure the viewport – It’s important to specify a viewport that adapts to different devices. This will make sure mobile devices render correctly.
Size your content to the viewport – If your content isn’t working in concert with the viewport, the images and text may be bigger than the display. This really negatively impacts the mobile experience.
Size tap targets appropriately – If users are going to tap buttons or images on the site, then make sure that they’re sized to make it easy.
Use legible font sizes – If the font is too small to be readable, you are making it too hard to consume. A base size of 16 CSS pixels is recommended.
There are a lot of things that can get in the way of a great website experience, and if you have one or more of these things slowing down your site, it might be time to re-evaluate the user experience and see if you can’t smooth out one or two of these speed bumps.
Contrary to what many people think, graphic design isn’t a dying industry. Looking closely, however, it’s easy to see why some people would believe so. From the field being saturated to the advent of free and user-friendly graphic design software, it’s clear why some have given up on graphic design.
Is graphic design dead? The answer is a resounding NO. Recent studies conducted by IBISWorld show that in 2019 alone, the industry generated a revenue of $15 billion with an annual growth rate of 3.5%. It is expected to grow further at a rate of 2.7% to become a $14.8 billion-dollar-strong industry.
Penji is a living proof that graphic design is alive and kicking. We’ve helped thousands of businesses with all their graphic design needs. If you’re still in doubt, read on to learn why graphic design isn’t dead and is here to stay.
It may come as a surprise to you that there are people who think that graphic design is already dead. Especially for the graphic designers themselves who have experienced tight competition, it’s understandably so. As long as there is access to cheap computers and free design software, fake graphic designers will proliferate. It is sometimes overtaking the jobs of qualified ones.
Also, websites that offer to create a logo for you for just five dollars, and other similar gimmicks, give the impression that graphic design is dead. With these channels, you’re sure to get cheap graphic design, nothing else. For your business to stand out, a generic logo or website from a template just won’t cut it.
A few business owners are also to blame for graphic design’s perceived death. Some entrepreneurs think that graphic design is a one-time thing. After the website, logo, and letterhead have been designed, it’s time to let go of the designer. Later, we’ll discuss why this shouldn’t be the case.
Any seasoned entrepreneur can tell you that graphic design is an essential part of business. But factors such as limited finances can make these business owners forego their graphic designers. And some think that after establishing their brand identities, there is no longer a need for a designer.
Graphic designing for your business is a continuous endeavor; here’s why:
Your brand identity is your main point of communication with your customers. Entrusting the continuity of the scheme to someone who doesn’t understand graphic design can be a significant blunder. Your visual identification deserves to keep its integrity, and only a professional can help you achieve this.
Cleveland Cavaliers hired an external graphic designer for their fan engagement platform. The brand identity, as you can see from the photo below, shows that it remained intact and recognizable.
Create smart, effective campaigns efficientlyMeet your conversion goals using visuals that stand outI need this!‹›
Great design inspires. Your customers, as well as employees, can benefit from this graphic design advantage. Excellent visual design can attract customers and encourage your employees to promote your brand.
A good graphic designer can prepare your business for the ever-changing digital world. Technology is continually changing, and your brand has to keep up. Good design can ensure that your website and other design materials can be viewed on multiple devices and platforms.
The Firefox logo had been through many redesigns in its history. This image shows the transition from detailed design to something more streamlined. The logo was simplified to fit beyond the normal website browser.
Graphic design can also become stagnant, and a professional designer can help maintain the freshness. You’ll gain new perspectives from someone outside of your business and provide you insights you may have never seen before. A good graphic designer will work with you to create new ideas that will keep your business on its feet.
Advancements in technology will make us think that AI will replace most of the work humans do. This may be so, but specific industries that require creativity will never succumb. You may have the most exciting website in your niche, but without innovation and creativity, soon enough, it’ll become boring and stale.
A professional graphic designer can help you stand out from the crowd. The WordPress templates shown below serve a purpose, and sometimes you’ll find a website design gem through a template. But don’t be surprised if you see some other websites to have that similar look as yours. Your company is unique, and its overall design should show how one-of-a-kind you are.
Business owners have a lot on their hands. If you leave the design work to a qualified graphic designer, you’ll be free from the burden of getting the design right. You’ll have more time and energy to focus on what matters most in your business.
Every aspect of your business will always require graphic design. And not just a one-size-fits-all plan, but a quality graphic design that’s uniquely yours. Whether it’s your website, promotional paraphernalia, corporate branding, web and print design, it has to include graphic design as an essential component.
In this fast-paced world we live in, is graphic design dead? Not only is it alive and well, but it’s also here to stay for good. Graphic designers are integral parts of a business and will contribute to a company’s success. Graphic design has become an indispensable asset and investment for a business.
Great graphic design is a business investment that will reap lots of benefits for your company. If you think that finding the right graphic designer is a difficult task, Penji can help you. We have vetted designers that can provide you with all the graphic design you’ll need.
For a monthly fixed price of as low as $369, you can have all the design, plus all the revisions you need. We’ll always make sure that you get the designs you love.
The only thing is that you’ve never formulated a social media strategy for your company before. Sure, your business has a Facebook and Twitter account that it occasionally posts on with an interesting industry article or to get the word out about a promotion, but that’s about the extent of it.
You hear how your company needs to be present on social media, but you aren’t seeing the results that are everyone keeps claiming are yours for the taking.
Effectively posting on social media requires a well-thought-out strategy that must be continually tweaked and re-implemented. The occasional posting about company news or promotions will no longer cut it.
How do you start a social media strategy? There are so many social media channels out there, which ones should you post on? What kind of content should you post to get the most engagement? Should you pay to promote your posts? Do you know where to look to see how well everything is performing?
Before you get overwhelmed, here is a guide to get you started on the right path of a successful social media strategy for your business:
Before you start a campaign in any business, you need to have goals and objectives in place to assess progress and know whether you’ve achieved success. A social media strategy is no different. If you don’t have any goals or objectives written out, you won’t know how your campaign is performing. These provide the foundation of your blueprint for your strategy.
Every subsequent course of action within the strategy is aimed at meeting or exceeding these goals and objectives.
With goals and objectives, you can quickly see when and where your social media campaign is going awry and make immediate changes to put it back on course.
When creating goals and objectives, it the S.M.A.R.T method is a good starting point. According to this method, the goals and objectives are to be specific (S), measurable (M), attainable (A), relevant (R) and time-bound (T).
After creating the goals and objectives for your campaign, you should look at where your current strategy stands.
What social media platforms is your company currently posting on? What kind of material is being posted? How much or little engagement is there? When do you post? How often do you post?
It helps to create a spreadsheet to document your answers to the above questions. Use this spreadsheet and compare it against your strategy’s goals and objectives. Are there things you’re already doing well? What needs changing in order for your goals and objectives need to be met?
Besides looking at the health of your current social media channels, be sure to completely fill out your company’s social media profiles, with a clear, identifiable picture and keywords. Completed social media profiles make your brand easier to find by consumers and it adds to your brand’s credibility and authority.
Maybe your company is posting on the wrong social media channels, or posting the wrong type of content, or is currently not on another social network it could leverage for increased attention. Maybe your posts are going out at the wrong time.
It can be tempting to be on as many social media networks as possible. The downside of this is that you will wear yourself out, waste valuable time, and produce hurried, boring bulk postings.
Social Media Strategy 2.jpgYou need to do some research on your industry, your desired audience, and even your competitors. Where are your ideal audience members most active? When are they most likely to engage? What interests them and what messaging catches their attention?
There are multiple social networks that allow you to gain insights into these questions. Facebook, for example, allows users to target specific audiences, see the interactions on their posts, the best and worst time for post engagement as well as demographics of those that interact with the posts.
In terms of scheduling posts, there are automation tools such as Buffer and Hootsuite that allow you to sync and schedule posts on multiple social networks in one place.
Observing what your competitors are doing and how well they’re faring on social media can give you tips and tricks on what to try out and what to avoid when formulating and implementing your social media campaign.
You can be on every social media network and still not get the engagement and conversions you’re looking for because your content is bland, sales, useless and impersonal.
You won’t know what to write without first identifying your ideal audience and social media networks. When coming up with content, you want to not only catch people’s attention, but you want to make your brand stand out as an authoritative and trustworthy source of information in your industry.
As you do this, it’s important to design your content to take advantage of each individual platform. Twitter, for instance, only allows for 140 characters and utilizes hashtags. Instagram, and Pinterest utilize images. Facebook utilizes text, images and videos. YouTube utilizes videos.
Your content needs to match the format of the platform, be interesting, and be useful. It should not come off as impersonal or condescending. Have your content make your brand appear as a person, not an organization.
Like putting together a social media audit spreadsheet, and using scheduling tools for posts, creating an editorial calendar can help guide you as to what you write. With an editorial calendar, you’ll know what you’re going to write about and have details
Once you research your audience, craft your content and schedule the posts on the appropriate social networks, you may be tempted to sit back and relax.
If you put a lot of time, resources and energy into a social media strategy, you want to make sure the ROI is worth it. Otherwise y, u’ll remain stuck and stagnant in your efforts.
As with any aspects of internet marketing, things in social media change constantly.
If you post a Facebook post at 2 pm one week and get a lot of engagement can turn into an ignored post the next week. Consumers also get bored seeing the same content all the time.
Just doing the occasional posting on a few social media channels will not result in a successful social strategy.
A well-performing social strategy begins with goals and objectives. You need to see where your current strategy is, research the best social media channels and your target customers and create high-quality, useful and interesting content.
Digital product development is the first thing you need to do to get your brand established within the digital ecosystem. As a product studio, Railsware is ready to share knowledge and experience on this issue.
Every product, be it tangible or intangible, is meant to deliver value to both its creator and owner. The former usually generates revenue from selling it, and the latter uses the product to solve a particular problem or get a particular job done. Essentially, digital products are services or tools that you interact with via a digital medium.
For example, GarageBand allows its users to create music and podcasts on iOS and macOS devices; Microsoft Office represents a bundled set of productivity applications. Therein lies the main hallmark of a digital product. It brings together the notion of a product and service and delivers the value to users through the digital interaction point. Your banking app is a perfect example of the digital transformation of banking services. This product delivers services online in a faster and more convenient form.
All downloadable assets are deemed digital products. These include ebooks, video and audio content, photos, graphics, and other items. But, in e-commerce, they fall under the notion of digital goods, which is much more relevant to the value they deliver.
For all that, we encourage you to differentiate between both terms in the following way:
Digital products are programming code-based assets that deliver a particular interactive value proposition to the final user. These are mostly web, mobile, desktop apps, digital dashboards, controller apps, and many more.
Digital goods are intangible items that exist in digital form and are void of any user-interactive components. Some of the digital goods may be implemented in physical form as well. Examples are electronic books, ringtones, wallpapers, video tutorials, mockup images, and so on.
There is a misconception that websites and web apps are genuine digital products. Essentially, they are just product implementation on the web. Therefore, we cannot treat Uber’s mobile app as a separate product. It is the way to deliver value to smartphone and tablet users. Thus, each digital product can be implemented via a web app or website, mobile app for both iOS and Android, as well as a desktop version for a different OS. To sum up our introduction to the digital product term, let’s single out key facets or requirements it can be characterized with:
Let’s check whether the above mentioned requirements are met in Railsware’s top products:
Each of the mentioned tools differs in essence: Mailtrap is a fake SMTP server, Jira Smart Checklist, and Airtable Importer are add-ons. Nevertheless, they all are digital products that bring specific value to users.
Since we’ve dotted all the “i”s regarding what digital product is, let’s move towards how it is created. So, we’re going to answer the question of what is digital product development and explain how it is relatable to product design.
You can find this question on Quora with two categories of answers:
Opinion #1: product design is just an element of product development along with market analysis, engineering, prototyping, and others. In this case, the design stands for industrial or graphic design – a set of processes aimed at coining user interface and visualization.
Opinion #2: development is the last step of product design. Now the latter acts as a cycle consisting of defining a problem, developing a solution, and validating it with users. Wikipedia supports this definition of digital product design.
Railsware’s opinion: The term you choose is not as important as the process you come through. Both design and development may denote a set of activities meant to create digital products. The crucial thing is which stages your design or development cycle consists of.
In general, the low-level cycle of building a digital product depends on the development approach you chose. However, the high-level workflow is mostly the same. Therefore, you can adjust it considering the requirements and complexity of your project. We single out three major stages: ideation, design & development, and growth.
In the beginning was the Idea. However, only 10% of digital product ideas turn into successful products and manage to deliver value to end-users. And the ideation phase is meant to find out whether your digital product can avoid failure at the outset. Traditionally, this phase is all about the identification of a problem and coining a solution. It may include conceptualization, research and analysis, estimations and other activities. The main goal is to prove the feasibility of your future digital product.
After the ideation (if it’s successful, of course), you are ready to move forward and think about how your digital product should look and feel.
We’ve introduced a high-level chain of processes to build a digital product. However, every product owner is free to adjust it according to the development approach or methodology his or her project is based on. Below, you’ll find descriptions of the most popular ones.
It is one of the longest-standing approaches offering a logical and linear development life-cycle model. The name waterfall denotes that the top-to-bottom progress like the water falling downwards. As a rule, the approach includes the following stages:
Waterfall development is a fit if you have ample budget and strict requirements to documentation, tech stack, and timeline. As a rule, this approach is the large companies’ choice for their in-house projects.
The essence of Agile digital product development is a rapid and flexible response to change. It rests on splitting the development cycle into short time slots – iterations. These iterations are made for each task or feature of the digital product. The approach provides parallel progress of different teams and a significant reduction of time costs. Here is a common process life cycle of Agile development:
Agile development practices emphasize face-to-face communication. Meanwhile, it plays down the role of documentation compared to other approaches. This methodology underlies numerous derivative ones, some of which we’re going to introduce below.
Scrum is a perfect approach for building complex products with volatile requirements. The entire workflow consists of sprints (periods of two to four weeks), and each sprint is the implementation of a complete life cycle:
The scrum approach is considered one of the most flexible ones. It encourages verbal communication within the project and adopts an empirical mindset. It means that an agile response to challenges supersedes an attempt to understand the problem entirely.
Lean development is a digital transformation of Toyota’s lean manufacturing practices into the approach for building software and digital products. It is usually characterized by fast product delivery and quality-centered progress. The lean digital product life cycle is as follows:
FDD is another Agile development offspring. It is suitable for companies shifting from phase-based to iterative approach. Feature-driven development powers digital products that require ongoing updates. The approach is design-oriented, and the very project is split into small pieces – features. Here is the FDD process cycle:
The approach fosters rapid development and successful evolution of products. On the other hand, small projects are unlikely to benefit from FDD.
RAD rests on prototyping as a core element of the product development cycle. Time expenses for delivering a prototype rise due to cutting planning activities. Pipeline acceleration is usually achieved by the use of focus groups to gather requirements, user testing of design, numerous team communication syncs, reuse of software components, rapid prototyping and other approaches. RAD’s life cycle looks as follows:
Another way to implement rapid app development is the use of dedicated object-oriented programming languages. Some of them including Python, Ruby, and Java we’ve already blogged about in the following articles: Ruby vs. Java, and Python vs. Ruby vs. Node.js.
Today, most startup teams opt for agile development and its derivatives. However, another progressive option in demand so far is a hybrid of waterfall and agile techniques. This approach allows you to customize the methodology and tailor it according to the requirements of your project. The idea is to have independent teams and merge them into a common environment. In this case, the level of dependencies between them will define the synchronization of releases since waterfall teams focus on upfront planning and agile teams prefer progressive planning at each stage.
Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all approach you can use for building any digital product. Moreover, startups rarely use only one methodology for the entire pipeline. For example, we use a blend of Agile, Scrum and Lean, as well as some in-house best practices. Therefore, you can make the best of particular development approaches and implement them in your project. Here we’ve broken down the best digital product development approaches by industry.
To end up, let’s refer to words by Thomas Schranz, founder and CEO of Blossom:
Before you fully get in over your head with Google AdWords, though, you need to make sure your business is really ready for this kind of pay-per-click campaign. Google Adwords, after all, isn’t a magic bullet for marketing success, and a poorly planned and ran AdWords campaign can easily lead to disaster.
It isn’t beneficial for a company to immediately dive into an AdWords campaign simply because other companies talk about how profitable it can be. To get the most benefit from using Google Adwords, you should have these elements in place:
The first ingredient is customer demand. If your customers are not searching for your product or service in Google, then, obviously, AdWords search advertising is not going to work for you. So, before you get too excited about creating your first campaign, you need to verify there is, in fact, search volume for what you’re going to offer.
The tool to use is the Google AdWords Keyword Suggestion Tool. Besides showing the amount of traffic for any given keyword, its advanced options can also show you how competitive a word is, the number of local monthly searches, relevant alternative phrases, and the cost per click of the keyword.
When coming up with or settling on keywords, ask yourself if the keywords are actually being searched for enough on Google to justify your efforts. This can also help you determine the intent of the user and if you can afford the CPC of the keyword.
After doing some research and narrowing down your target keywords, calculate your maximum cost per click (CPC) you’re willing to spend. The more competitive a keyword is, the more you’ll have to spend (or bid) on it. Don’t just go after keywords that are competitive, target ones you can afford and which will most likely give you profitable results.
You don’t necessarily want to push your budget. For example, if you’re maximum CPC is $5, you’re more likely to make a profit by using a keyword that costs $4 instead of $5.
To get an idea of what your maximum CPC should be, you’ll need to assign numbers to your website conversion rate, your advertising profit margin, and the profit per customer.
There is a handy formula from Kissmetrics that can help you calculate your maximum CPC. It goes like this:
Max CPC = (profit per customer) x (1 – profit margin) x (website conversion rate)
If you really want to crush the keyword game, you have to start with those high-volume keywords, but you should also know what keywords your competitors are using.
There are several tools that can help you spy on your competitors, like one that is aptly named KeywordSpy. This tool collects and provides information on your competitors’ past activities, including the top keywords used and how long they have been using each keyword. If you see someone using a certain set of words for a long time, you can take it as an indication that that keyword has been successful for them, which means you should consider similar terms.
You can even look up a competitor’s past advertising and marketing copy and material that feature their top performing keywords and then export all the necessary information into your AdWords account.
There are millions of websites out there promoting all sorts of brands, products, and services. Any kind of digital marketing, including the utilization of a Google AdWords campaign, will be useless if your brand merely blends into the noisy background. You need to offer products and services that are unique and will separate you from the competition.
If you don’t yet have a USP, you can look to your company’s strengths, get insights from your current customers and look for opportunities your competitors have missed. A strong USP will catch people’s attention and drive more traffic to your site which will lead to more conversions and sales.
In addition to a strong USP, you need to have an offer that customers and potential customers won’t be able to resist. Coming up with an irresistible offer may seem fun and easy, but it can be harder than it looks. After all, every advertiser is seasoned in creating attention-grabbing offer ads.
What are the characteristics of a powerful irresistible ad? Well, they must offer value to the potential buyer, they must be believable, they don’t involve risk, and there is a clear call to action.
When you use AdWords, you pay each time someone clicks on your ads. With that in mind, you need to create ads that not only lead to clicks to your website, but you only want high-quality prospects who are likely to convert into sales to click on your ads. This means you need to create eye-catching ads that speak to a specific audience.
In Google AdWords, the goal is to increase sales through more visibility and more clicks. The number of clicks you get can even have an effect on the costs of your ads, because it contributes to the overall Quality Score.
In other words, it pays to create exceptional, well-thought out ads.
The text of an AdWords ad is very limited, so you need to be quick to the point and only feature the most important information (in an interesting way). The standard elements of these ads include a headline, a two-line description and a display URL. You’re only given 25 characters for the headline and 35 characters for a description. Make them count.
If you’re new to internet marketing, you may naturally think you want the homepage of your website to rank for all your top keywords, and you may even want to send all the traffic from your PPC ads there, too.
This is a common mistake that can easily derail the effectiveness of your AdWords campaign.
When you create an ad in AdWords, make sure it goes to its own dedicated page on your website (not the homepage). You want the user to have a pleasant experience on your site so they make a purchase. Dumping them on your homepage and leaving it up to them to navigate your site to find the item they’re interested in will lead to high, costly bounce rates.
Instead, create a dedicated, destination page to link the ad too. Take the time to create a page that is relevant to the text in the ad and makes it extremely easy for the visitor to take the next action.
Before you make your ads on Google AdWords “live,” you should understand how to track the results of each of your advertising campaigns. If you don’t set up tracking, you’ll lose insightful data that can drastically improve your efforts. You will also be unable to identify weaknesses in the campaign and make necessary changes and improvements.
In Google AdWords, campaign tracking is found in Conversion Tracking. You’ll have to make sure this is set up and activated before your ads are deployed.
To set up Conversion Tracking, you must define what a successful conversion is for your company and its advertising objectives. Simply click on the + Conversion button and enter your conversion definition. A piece of code will be generated. This string of code will then need to be installed on the last page of the conversion funnel. For many companies, this is a “thank you” page.
A Google AdWords campaign is an effective method for your business to increase sales and be successful. Always remember, though, just as a well-planned and timed advertising campaign can benefit your company, a poorly planned AdWords campaign can hurt your company.
It is best to familiarize yourself with the Google AdWords platform and be sure to have the abovementioned components in place before making your ads “live.”
Working with Google AdWords can be intimidating, confusing, frustrating and time-consuming, but you can determine if you’re ready to jump in based on the above criteria. Of course, if you still aren’t sure, you can always discuss your options with an experienced company.