5 Steps for Successful Product Design
How to turn an idea into reality!
Your entrepreneur brain is buzzing with new product ideas, but you have no idea how to take that concept and turn it into reality. Worst, trying to understand requirements from manufacturers sends you into a tail spin.
Product design is a lengthy and detailed process, that if not understood or followed correctly, could lead to costly and timely mistakes and result in a product that doesnt have the features the users wants or is faulty.
Our pals, Gembah, have broken down the 5 crucials steps of the design process and shared what you need to know to help you be more aware of the time and financial commitments and ensure that you develop a product that both you and your customers will love. Let's get into it:
Step 1: Define the "What" and the "Why"
If you want to know how a product is going to do the thing it is designed to do, you first need to figure out exactly what the product will do, and why it needs to do it.
In short: before you start thinking about the how of the design, you need to know the what and the why.
The best way to figure out the “what” and the “why” is through market research: conduct online polls, do user interviews, identify competitors, etc.
A very helpful thing you can do is figure out who your ideal customers are, and what should their experience with your product look like. What problems do they have, and how does your product help them solve those problems.
Once you do that, you will be ready to start thinking in terms of the actual product design process. Find out which design requirements would make your product stand out, and, perhaps most importantly: what does your product need to be feasible. It is very common to get carried away in the planning stage, because every idea works perfectly when it is only in your head. However, if you are actually trying to execute and bring it into the real world, you need to be realistic and ensure that the product is feasible, both from a technical perspective, and from a market standpoint.
Step 2: Create Design Concepts
During ideation mode, designers will come up with several different concepts to give a base for brainstorming and refining. In fact, it is quite standard to hire multiple different designers to start the ideation process.
Once you have your concepts down, it will be time to refine your ideas further, really get into the nitty-gritty, and figure out the finer details.
In this phase, you will want to define have a design clear enough to be able to make a prototype. BUT — and this is a very big but (we cannot lie) — you shouldn’t have the details so well defined that making further changes will become too expensive. In other words, while it is important to have a working prototype, it would be counterproductive to develop that prototype too far, because it is likely that more changes will still need to be made.
During this stage is when you want to get yourself a good partner, one that can estimate costs and time to give your product that final push, getting it finalized and in the hands of customers.
Step 3: Make Prototypes and Test
Here, the team will build several prototypes and test the product requirements. Prototypes don’t have to be made with the exact same materials as the final product, just simple materials will do, to get the point across.
Once the prototypes are made, your team will test for form, fit, and function. This way, you can find out if your design ideation actually works in the real world, and if it does provide the solution that you designed it for.
Form testing: What does the product look like? Is it Aesthetically pleasing?
Fit Testing: Is it the right size for the job, do all the components work well together?
Functional Testing: Can the design do what the product is supposed to do?
You can do your testing either in a controlled environment like a lab, or with potential users. And REMEMBER: building a prototype and doing testing is not a one-time thing — iteration is key.
Step 4: Form a Detailed Design
You know all those “small details” and “tomorrow problems” that you were procrastinating up to now? Well, once your prototype is finished, it will finally be time to take care of all those issues you postponed.
You will need to make an in-depth cost analysis with various alternatives, which will let you compare the costs of all the different options. In this stage, you will be optimizing the materials, shape, and components.
The main goal here is simple: maximize the manufacturability of the design.
You also need to ensure that all stakeholders are satisfied with the product, and if not you may have to go back to the prototype and re-design until everyone is on board.
The schedule and timeline need to be refined and agreed upon.
In short: This is the last opportunity to check in with everyone and take feedback into account, because after this stage it will become extremely inconvenient — and expensive — to go back and make changes
Step 5: Create the Final Design
This is where everything is locked down and finalized. If you want to make any changes at this stage, you may have to go as far back as steps 2 and 3, which is less than ideal. Especially if you get to this stage again after going back to steps 2 and 3, and then you have to go back AGAIN, getting caught in a Kafkaesque nightmare loop.
You will also have to deal with documentation. This is almost always an overlooked and neglected part of the process. We get it — you are so close to being done, and documentation just feels like bureaucratic BS. But providing a good documentation package will save you a LOT of headaches, so don’t get lazy when you are so close to the finish line, and make sure that you are providing all the details the manufacturer needs to know: Drawings, CAD models, Materials, Quality Control requirements, Cost, Schedule, etc.
Once this is done, you are ready to make the magic happen, and bring your dreams into reality (2 clichés for the price of one!)
That's all, folks!
Now you are equipped to create a new product from the ground up — from being a vague idea in your head, all the way to something tangible that is ready for the market.
You know that old saying, “measure twice; cut once”? Here is a remix for product design: “Go through each step carefully and iterate when it is cheaper to do so; avoid going backwards and getting caught in a nightmare loop of re-designs”.
Oh, and may the odds be ever in your FAVA!
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