Product Design – what does it mean?

What is Product Design all about?

The concept of Product Design is becoming increasingly widespread. Once, we could only hear about it in the context of industrial design and the creation of physical products. However, nowadays, it also encompasses services and digital products. At first glance, it seems understandable. But is it really? Do you know exactly what lies beneath it and what stages the design process should consist of to be effective? In this article, we will try to explain that.

The Product Design process and its final outcome

The final outcome of the design process, aside from tangible objects, can include e.g. desktop or mobile applications, websites, or computer software. However, no product will succeed in the market if it’s not functional, and if the intended users are not willing to use it. So, what can be done to make a product stand out, attract its audience, be useful, and financially viable? These questions are precisely what Product Design seeks to address.

During the design process, we must consider three key aspects:

  • appeal and utility for the end user,
  • technological feasibility,
  • business perspective and investment profitability. 

One of the key elements of the Product Design process is the concept of Design Thinking, with the focus being on the individual. This approach revolves around gaining a deep understanding of users, searching for solutions to their problems from multiple perspectives and breaking away from conventional patterns. As a result, the products created are innovative, precisely tailored to human needs (both conscious and unconscious), and desired by users. Consequently, they bring tangible benefits to the company, whether financial or in terms of reputation.

In light of this, how should the design work proceed to be efficient, effective, and yield the best possible outcome? The Double Diamond methodology comes with help here, encouraging a comprehensive exploration of the given topic, systematizing actions, and aiding in achieving optimal results.

Product Design Stages

Product Design is an incredibly broad concept. It’s not just about the visual layer and interface design; it also includes research and analysis, conceptual work, product implementation, as well as its ongoing development and functioning. That’s why it’s important to properly structure this process.

Depending on the nature of the product itself and the commissioning company’s resources, the stages of the process and their complexity can certainly vary. However, they typically include the following steps:

  • Discover – the phase of empathy and exploration
  • Define – the phase of problem definition
  • Develop – the phase of generating ideas and creating solutions
  • Deliver – the phase of prototyping, giving tangible form to selected ideas, testing them, and refining them

Below, we will take a closer look at these phases. However, before we proceed, it’s important to mention that the path through these phases doesn’t have to be linear. If at any stage, we realize that the chosen direction isn’t suitable (for instance, during prototype testing with users), we can return to a previous stage or even start the process anew. This is done to correct solutions and better align the product with user needs and business requirements.

Step 1 – Discover

The first phase is about discovery, exploration, and understanding.

Before we start designing any functionalities or the appearance of our product, we need to gather essential information to thoroughly understand its target audience. This involves recognizing their needs, expectations, habits, motivations, pain points, as well as cultural and environmental contexts.

We embark on this phase with the aim of immersing ourselves in the world of our potential users. By doing so, we can build empathy, generate insights, and frame the problem we’re aiming to solve. This foundational understanding guides our design decisions and helps ensure that the product resonates with its intended users.

Understanding the business needs is also crucial at this stage. It involves defining client requirements, estimating the product’s potential, conducting a thorough market analysis, and assessing the competition. This ensures that the company commissioning the product can derive profits from it, and designers can make conscious budget decisions.

During this phase, an open mind is essential. Information should be sought from multiple sources and approached in various ways. There are no ready-made answers. Research needs to be approached creatively, considering all possible scenarios and eventualities.

Tools that can be utilized in this phase include:

  • Desk research and analysis of available data
  • Questionnaire surveys and in-depth interviews with representatives of the target group
  • User observations
  • Competitor mapping
  • SWOT analysis

Step 2 – Define

After gathering knowledge (about the target users as well as the business and market situation), it’s crucial to synthesize this information and draw relevant conclusions. From the collected data, the most significant aspects should be extracted, and the problem should be defined – it should be one that the product can address and that is financially viable to solve. In this phase, the initial product concept and its strategy start to take shape.

This stage can pose a significant challenge, as it often involves finding a compromise between stakeholders’ expectations and what the target audience actually needs. Additionally, designers and clients frequently underestimate this phase and, after collecting data, want to move straight to creating solutions without deeper analysis. However, it’s worth putting effort into this stage and convincing the client of its importance. Superficially defining the problem can narrow the full picture and, ultimately, lead us in the wrong direction.

On the other hand, properly prioritizing and establishing an action plan at the beginning of the process helps address the product’s needs more effectively, reducing the estimated design cost, and saving time and energy for everyone involved in the project.

When defining the problem, you can use the following techniques:

  • Creating Personas
  • Creating User Stories
  • Customer Journey Mapping
  • Re-framing the problem
  • 5 Whys method
  • Value Proposition Canvas
  • Business Model Canvas

Step 3 – Develop

The next step is the ideation phase, which involves generating as many ideas as possible in response to the problem defined earlier.

Based on insights from previous stages and the developed user persona, we need to consider how the digital product we are working on can meet the users’ needs and achieve market success, thereby fulfilling business objectives.

The project team’s efforts should culminate in evaluating and selecting the best solutions, which will form the basis for creating a product prototype.

The initial product concept can be developed using various methods, such as:

  • Brainstorming
  • Creating user flows
  • Developing information architecture

Step 4 – Deliver

Once the product idea has crystallized, you can move on to its visualization and creating a prototype. This prototype allows for quick testing of the developed solutions with users and implementing adjustments if needed.

Why is this important? We’ll explain. The earlier we discover that the product doesn’t align with real needs, the sooner we can change our course of action and stop building something that has little to no chance of success. Of course, we never have 100% certainty that a product will be a “bull’s eye,” but prototypes and tests significantly help mitigate the risk of failure.

Prototyping usually starts with simple wireframes (often sketches) or Low-Fidelity mockups that contain few details but allow understanding of the product’s functionality and content hierarchy. Later, it’s time for interactive, clickable High-Fidelity mockups that closely resemble the final product. Initial prototypes are firstly discussed and refined within the project team and with stakeholders. Once approved, they can be presented to real users in their real environment for testing and feedback.

The testing phase follows. After conducting tests and gathering feedback from users, it’s important to analyze all observations and behaviors, draw conclusions, and incorporate necessary changes into the product prototype. These iterations can be repeated several times until a satisfying result is achieved. The outcome of these efforts is the Minimum Viable Product (MVP), which is the most basic version of the product that provides value to users and would be able to survive in the market.

The tools used at this stage include:

  • Wireframes
  • Low – Fidelity mockups
  • High – Fidelity mock-ups
  • Qualitative and quantitative tests
  • Users observations and analysis of their behavior

Product Design – why is it worth going through the process?

Product Design primarily offers efficiency in work, accurate solutions, and budget optimization.

Thorough and iterative analyses of user and stakeholder needs, coupled with refining and perfecting the product through prototypes, allow for flexible movement through different stages of the process and the option to return to earlier phases if necessary. This empowers designers to propose solutions that best cater to the target audience’s expectations.

Furthermore, the entire design process leading up to this point is carried out with minimal financial resource investment. UI design, programming, and the final product deployment to the market only occur when there’s confidence in the developed concept. Concerns about delays or additional programming work due to corrections and changes can be minimized because chosen features, functionalities, or information architecture have been meticulously developed and tested in earlier stages. The final product can then undergo only cosmetic functional enhancements.


The success of a product largely depends on the course of the design process, whether it’s a physical object or a digital product. Before we start building anything, we should consider how to do it: what values the product can provide to users and what solutions will align with the business needs. Systematizing the process according to Product Design principles (including Design Thinking or the Double Diamond methodology) is definitely beneficial in this context.

To minimize the risk of product failure in the market and optimize project time and budget, we should begin with market research and analysis of the target audience, drawing solid conclusions. Based on this foundation, we can develop and refine the concept, create prototypes, and then test their usability in a real environment – before introducing the final product version for everyday use. This approach allows us to base our work on real user expectations rather than gut feelings, enabling more efficient and rapid product development while avoiding costly changes and corrections during programming or post-implementation phases.


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