Delayed Implementation? Unexpected Costs? How Product Design Will Help You Avoid Them
Creating an online store or a mobile application - just like any other commercial project with a high degree of complexity - brings with it challenges related to the assumed budget and/or the adopted work schedule. However, problems with unexpected costs and work delays can be avoided. All you need to do is to stop at the very beginning of the process and make some deep thinking about what is it that you actually want to achieve with your digital product. This initial stage of work, called product design, is not particularly labor-intensive or costly - especially when compared with the total cost of implementing the finished product - but it brings great, measurable benefits.
From this article you'll learn what product design in eCommerce business is and what it isn't, and what benefits it brings to companies setting out to build their own online store or mobile app.
What Is Product Design?
Contrary to what your instinctive feelings may be, product design is not yet another buzz word used by the IT to impress their audience. It is a well-described and tested process that allows for coming up with some great specifics and precise plans for the implementation of your initial business idea. Product design workshops, conducted with an active participation of the client, allow for a critical overview of the idea for a digital product from different angles. This allows to predict and define all expectations towards it, and to prepare a detailed specification, IT architecture, as well as estimate the work schedule and costs of the project.
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According to product design manifestos, developed by the best software houses, product design is all about designing bold solutions that are a real response to the needs and problems of customers and end users; redundant work that is not necessary to create a functional product is eliminated, which results in creating an MVP (Minimum Viable Product). A special emphasis is placed on successful teamwork, with the client participating in the entire process as an equal partner.
It should be emphasized, however, that product design is a broad, constantly evolving concept, not limited to the IT industry. It can be successfully applied in other industries as well.
How Can Product Design Help in Creating an Online Store or a Mobile App?
Product design in eCommerce helps to turn a general, unspecified idea for an online store or a mobile app into a specific and very detailed plan for their creation. How is it done? During the workshops, the original idea is examined with a 'fresh eye' from different, complementary points of view: business, marketing, IT and UX/UI. This allows to identify and predict most expectations and needs with regard to the final product, including a realistic estimate of what is and is not technically possible to achieve, and how much setting up the online store or mobile app will actually cost. Then, using the tools used by designers, a detailed functional specification of the digital product, its IT architecture, as well as the schedule and cost of implementation are created.
As a result of such a workshop, you can be sure that the resulting product will both meet the most important expectations of the main stakeholders in your company and your target users; it will also fit within the assumed time frame and the adopted budget. The documentation created during the product design stage will significantly facilitate and speed up the entire process. Equally important, you will avoid the risk of incurring technological debt - a mistake that is still being underestimated by business owners and which may block the development of your online business in the future.
But that is not all. The product design stage also allows to create a coherent vision and a sense of common goal in the team - which is especially important if an external partner, e.g. a software house, is involved in the work. Workshop participants have the opportunity to get to know each other and understand their way of working - which translates into a more efficient communication and cooperation in the implementation stage.
It is also important to note that during the current coronavirus pandemic such a process can be carried out 100% remotely, using easy-to-use digital tools, thus ensuring full safety to its participants.
How Does Digital Product Design Work In Practice?
To get started with the product design stage, you need to bring together a few key people. On your part, it's a business owner, i.e. a decision-making person from the business side responsible for the entire project, and people representing business, IT and marketing. On the part of an external partner - a software house that will be working on your digital product - a business and IT strategist, a marketing and UX strategist, an UX designer and a project manager are needed. Additionally, at this stage of work, the presence of an experienced developer may be useful.
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And this is what the product design process look like in a nutshell: using a tool such as Product Canvas, the vision of both teams regarding the online store or mobile app is made consistent. Priorities are set up and a clear direction for further action is given.
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Then, on the basis of e.g. User Story Map, the participants go into details of the planned product. Using the so-called user stories, both the needs of end users and stakeholders in your company are mapped. These needs are then prioritized to determine the content of the first working version of the product (Version 1.0 / MVP) that will be the basis for further work.
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And what do these user stories look like? Here are some examples for an online store:
As a customer, I can enter a discount code to take advantage of a promotion
As a customer, I can choose a parcel locker to conveniently pick up the parcel
As a customer, I can check delivery methods to decide if they suit me
As a customer, I see dynamic hints in the search engine to make it easier to find what I'm looking for
As a customer, I can conveniently zoom in on photos to see product in details
As a customer, I can buy without creating an account to speed up the process
As a logged in customer, I can add products to the wishlist and save them for later
As a logistics worker, I can edit shipping costs in CMS
As a content manager, I can add blog articles all by myself
As a marketing employee, I can manage all banners in the online store
In this way, going step by step through specific area diagrams, all features and requirements are mapped and prioritized. This allows you to take into account all the aspects required in an online store or a mobile app, which in turn will allow you to achieve the desired shape of your service.
What Will You Get at the End of the Product Design Workshop and What Can You Do with It?
Once the product design stage is over, you'll have a detailed vision of your digital product and a detailed functional specification with a precise estimation of work and costs. You will know exactly the scope of work necessary to create an early working version of the website or application that meets both your business expectations and the needs of end users.
Your detailed documentation will also include the IT architecture diagram. Additionally, you'll receive all materials created during the workshops, i.e. filled in User Story Map and Product Canvas.
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With the above materials, you'll be able to start UX/UI design and developing your product - which, by the way, you can also entrust to an external software house.
By starting your eCommerce adventure with the proper design of your online store or mobile app, you'll be able to minimize the risk of unexpected costs and delayed implementation. What's more, you'll be able to quickly move to the next stage of the project, i.e. UX and UI design. In short: your project will be greatly facilitated. Ask yourself: can you afford not to take advantage of it?