The field of digital product design has come a long way in many aspects. The field is consistently expanding, changing, and improving. One of these aspects is how organized it has become.

Digital product designers have a lot on their plate, and they usually take on the bulk work of the work in projects. They need to understand business models, analyze their target audience, combine their technical expertise in the intricate fields of programming and design, and many more. This is in order to produce digital products that are facile with their user-centered design while meeting the necessary business targets.

However, while these tasks may seem too complex to be labeled as organized, the entire process of digital product design can actually be broken down into five main and simple stages. Each one of these stages encompasses major yet very straightforward steps that, if followed, will undoubtedly lead you to the results you’re hoping for.

Each one of these steps is vital to implement and should be followed to the dot. But while it is possible, and even encouraged, to play around with the order of the stages whenever necessary, clear logic and reasoning should be taken into consideration when doing so. To better understand what is meant by that, let us consider the following instances:

The first example is that one should absolutely not be cutting corners and jumping straight into the second stage of prototyping without going through the initial stage of research, no matter how much you might detest the researching aspect of the process! On the other hand, it is highly advisable that you take user feedback, and any other beneficial feedback you might receive, very seriously. This translates to the fact that you might need to return to any of the stages you have already completed to enhance and fix whatever it is that needs fixing. 

Proper research is key!

The first stage is all about research. Proper research has consistently proven to serve as a solid base for any project that is to be undertaken. 

Some aspects of research that are invaluable include, but are not limited to, knowing the ins and outs of your target audience and understanding the market well. In addition to these, research includes identifying and gathering information about your main competitors, and creating clear set goals for your end product. 

It goes without saying that you can learn a thing or two from your main competitors and understand what makes their products a success. 

As for your own product, having a rough idea is not enough and is a recipe for chaos. You should be putting into words what the product is, identifying what it is set to achieve, noting what is required to achieve these goals, and so on.

When it comes to your main subjects, your target audience, you must become familiar with their needs and behaviors. As we touched upon earlier, the field of digital product design has recently been more centered around being user-friendly and enhancing the experience of using the product. Therefore, the gathered information on your target audience goes into creating user personas. 

The user personas help designers to understand the users’ goals, motivations, and pain points, which are essential to creating a product that meets their needs.

This phase may not be a digital product designer’s favorite part of the process, but it is indispensable and most definitely imperative to how smooth sailing the rest of the steps are set to go. For this reason, this step should not be skipped.From using analytics to obtain quantitative data, to staying up to date on recent design trends, the more valuable the information you gather is, the more likely it is that your end product will be successful.

Prototyping sets the stage!

Once you have gotten a pretty good idea of who your target audience is, what they are like, and what their activity entails, and once you have properly formulated your ideas about your own product and gathered all of the other necessary information in the first stage of research, the second stage commences.

This is the prototyping stage, and it is by far one of the most crucial steps! Here is why:

During the prototyping phase, as the name suggests, you will be creating prototypes of your product based on the research you have done. The prototypes then enter the testing phase, where you are able to receive extremely valuable feedback from prospective users as well as other experts in the field. 

Nobody wants to hear that their products have flaws, but you have to remember that it is highly unlikely that your first prototype and first attempt will be flawless. For that reason, you should greatly welcome any constructive criticism your way, because it will only make your end product better!

Additionally, any necessary alterations are very easily implemented at this stage. Alterations are also much more cost-effective and less time-consuming when handled at this stage. 

With that being said, it becomes clear why handling these issues is better done early on in the digital product design process. But do keep in mind that sometimes things don’t always go as planned, and you might have to return back to this stage of prototyping in the instances where your product undergoes major changes later on. 

One more thing worth noting here is that there are two types of prototypes that you might produce, and they are the low-fidelity and high-fidelity sketches. The low-fidelity sketches, as suggested in the name, are very basic and rough sketches that lack details. These sketches are usually used in the initial stage of prototyping and during the process of communicating with other specialists in the team. Alternatively, the high-fidelity sketches are used much later in the prototyping phase, and they are meant to serve as accurate representations of the final product. 

Now you know the lingo!

Designers finally get to design!

As expected, the third stage is the design stage. In fact, the high-fidelity sketches are more likely to merge the final stages of the second stage [prototyping] with the third stage [designing]. 

In the designing phase, there is a great focus on details like the graphics, the branding, and the creation of the marketing materials. The visual aspects of the product are the highlight of the design phase. This is why it is in this phase that the user interface (UI) and the user experience (UX) of the product are designed.

Major changes to the product are pretty much expected to take place at this stage. Thus, it is rather common practice for the project to alternate between the prototyping and the designing phases until the product is designed to perfection and everyone is satisfied with where things are headed.

This alteration between the second and third phases is what makes the digital product design procedure an iterative process. It also serves to explain why you should expect to spend the bulk of the duration of the process in these couple of stages.

Develop and build!

The fourth stage is all about developing your digital product, putting the final touches on the project, and finally seeing it come to life! 

Earlier on, we brought to light the fact that digital product designers must have and do use varied expertise from understanding business models to programming and design. In the initial stage (the phase of research), the business model was implemented as the idea and goals were being brainstormed. In the second and third stages (the phases of prototyping and designing, respectively), the need for creating the ideal design was what was focused on. And finally, in the fourth stage, the knowledge of programming languages will be put to use!

The development phase is when the final and working product gets to be built, based on the design that was meticulously worked on in previous phases. This stage requires technical expertise and knowledge of programming languages and development tools.

Depending on the intricacy of the project at hand, this phase may also take a good chunk of the duration of the overall process. But, the good news is that the process is almost over as we move on to the fifth and final stage – the phase of testing the final product!

Final test!

At last, we reach the end of the process, and we enter the fifth and final stage. The fifth stage (the phase of testing) is when the final product that was built and developed in the fourth stage (conveniently labeled as the phase of development), gets to undergo testing. 

The purpose of testing the product is to refine it to ensure that the finished product is a high-quality one. It would truly be a shame to launch a faulty product after all this effort and after undergoing the entirety of the digital product design process. For this reason and more, this stage should never be skipped, and it should be given the attention and time it deserves.

Another goal of the testing phase is that it not only confirms that the users’ needs are fully met, but it also confirms that their high expectations of the product are met as well. Moreover, the product is scanned and tested to guarantee that it is free of any bugs and errors.

The usability and effectiveness of the finished product are also looked into, with the existing option of gathering even more user feedback providing additional insight and an opportunity to further improve.

What happens after the launch?

As you are now well aware of the value delivery process involved in the field of digital product design, it is important to touch upon what happens after the product has finally been launched.

In fact, the launching phase is not so different from any of the other phases in the process as the steps involved in it are rather familiar. In the launching stage, the product will be closely observed in order to ensure that it continues performing as expected. 

The necessity of closely observing the product comes in handy when and if a bug or an error ever arises. 

On top of that, it is important to monitor the product in terms of feedback. It is never too late to receive feedback or to further improve your product. 

As it has become apparent, this iterative process cycles through many of the phases more than once. This is why it was emphasized earlier that the phases of the digital product design process might not be followed chronologically as the project is underway. 

It is also apparent that the one thing that truly leads the way in the process and dictates when each stage can begin, is the feedback received from users. The user experience and usability are to be prioritized, making user feedback vital throughout the procedure.

At the end of the day, however, the entire process consists of a mere five steps that are easy to comprehend and that are definitely applicable. So, if you choose to follow these steps and adhere to a user-centered approach, then you have an organized plan for success!

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