Product design and product development are both terms used in the creation of new products and rebranding/upgrading of existing products. Product developers and product designers work hand-in-hand to create and launch the best products for users but although they share similar goals, a number of differences exist between them.
Product development is a process that encompasses all the stages of a product's existence. It refers to the complete life cycle of a product and although product design is one of the most important parts of this cycle, it is not all there is. Developing a product starts from market analysis all the way to product launch and it involves joint effort from various teams of which the product design team is one, alongside the manufacturing, logistics, developers, sales, and marketing teams. The product design team is only responsible for the part of the cycle that involves planning, creating, and designing the product. The design process is very crucial as it produces prototypes on which the company can test ideas and through which they can reach their target audience and get customer reviews.
Product development refers to the process of bringing a product from an idea/concept stage all the way to market delivery. It includes all the stages in a product’s entire journey such as but is not limited to need identification, idea generation, building product, launching, and collecting feedback. This process covers both the introduction of a new product and the renewing of existing ones. The motive behind product development is to grow and sustain the market shares of a company by meeting the demands of consumers. Product development strategies ensure that your products are of value, in demand, and of the highest quality possible before they hit the market.
In some organizations, “product development” is used to refer to the team responsible for implementing a design which usually includes developers, engineers, and quality assurance.
But, in the real sense, product development is an overall process or method for bringing products to market, and it cuts across many teams within a company.
The first step to developing a product is to identify a problem that the product potentially solves. Then, systematically analyze the market, target, and possible distribution channels in order to build a development plan. The product development process is a cycle that transforms an idea into a marketable product. You start with an idea and end up with product specifications, product positioning, pricing strategy, service components, and financial characteristics.
But before you embark on the product development journey, you can save a lot of time and effort by making sure you’ve considered the following things:
1. Is there a demand for the product?
2. Can it be produced?
3. How can the product reach its customers?
4. What competition will it have?
5. Do you have the necessary financial resources to carry out the project?
When you have the answers to these questions, you can then proceed to the product development process.
Product design is a complex process involving a variety of tasks, ranging from user research to prototyping and usability testing with the user as the main focus. It also plays a role in refining user experience ensuring the product evolutions are seamless and non-disruptive. It is the role of the product designer to empathize with users, understand their needs, motivations, and frustration as well as the business objectives before building products to meet these needs.
Product designers use a variety of tools for different functions across different projects. The number of software available for use is countless and there is no right or wrong, it all depends on what you want to achieve. However, there are a few tools you will need as a product designer.
• User research tools: Hotjar, Userbits, Otter.ai
• Structure Planning tools: Miro, Whimsical, Figjam, and Mural
• Interface Building tools: Adobe XD, Sketch, Figma, Invision, and Axure
• Graphic Design tools: Photoshop, Illustrator, Canva, and Affinity designer
• Design Resource tools: Google fonts, Unsplash, Muzlicolors, and Envato
• User Testing tools: User Zoom, User testing, Usability Hub, Maze, Marvel, and Lookback
• Project Planning tools: Trello, Asana, Jira, and Basecamp
• Collaboration tools: Slack, Notion
• Web Development tools(No-Code): Webflow
Product design and product development involve multiple-step procedures that are not compulsorily undertaken in a linear fashion.
Product development plays a key role in any company as it determines the market position of a company, hence proper and adequate planning is required. The product development stages are:
Idea Generation and Screening:This is the starting point of any product. It involves an active search for new ideas usually stemming from already existent problems. The ideas could be sourced during formal brainstorming sessions or even from casual discussion. The ideas are then analyzed and filtered and the best idea, usually one that is profitable to the company and at the same time meets customer’s demand, is chosen.
Concept Development: After an idea is selected, the marketer creates different product concepts for the idea. The company then compares and decides which of these product alternatives is the most viable.
Business Analysis: This is where feasibility studies of a product are carried out. It involves an analysis of all the economic variables involved in developing and marketing a product. It takes into consideration the investments, sales variables, and profits. Management usually carries out surveys and compares similar products to check for any possible risk and plan to avert them.
Prototype/Product Development: After the product idea has passed through the necessary scrutiny, it is then converted into a tangible product (prototype) which can be used to validate market research. The prototype is launched in the target marketplace to see how well it performs. Various departments such as marketing, advertising, and finance play different roles to enhance the performance of the product. Based on the results of this exercise, necessary adjustments are made and the final product is built.
Test Marketing: Through the prototype launch, the company is able to test different strategies of marketing, advertising, packaging, and pricing. Feedback is then taken into consideration
Commercialization: As a result of the tests carried out, the management is able to get a basic understanding of how the products should work, enabling them to finalize decisions and pick the best strategies for the final product launch. All the departments work together to enhance product performance in the marketplace.
Before going into the design process, it’s always important to know why you and your team are building the product, who you are building it for, and what it is meant to achieve. Having a product vision gives you purpose and serves as a guide in the design process.
Empathize: Once product vision and strategy have been defined the next step is to understand your users and the products they are using. This phase allows you to set aside your own assumptions about the world and gain real insight into users and their needs. Their motivations, frustrations, and habits. This is typically done through user research. This phase also allows you to understand how users currently operate and the loopholes that can be fixed.
Definition: Data and observations from the empathy stage are then analyzed and the core problems are identified and defined. These definitions are called problem statements and are usually the basis for idea generation. You create user personas at this stage to help keep your efforts focused on the users and their needs.
Ideation: The solid background of knowledge from the first two phases means that you can start to think outside the box, look for alternative ways to view the problem, and identify innovative solutions to the problem through brainstorming. You can also carry out competitor research to get inspiration.
Prototyping: is an experimental phase with the aim of identifying the best possible solution for each problem found. The team should produce an inexpensive version of the product to investigate the ideas generated.
Testing: Usability testing is very important as it allows you to get feedback from users during the ideation phase before anything gets built. This is crucial as it allows you to identify any impending usability issues you need to fix or improve on before you invest more time in developing the solution.
Involves forming, modeling, and shaping a new idea. Examples of concepts in this context are an online insurance company, eHealth, customer self-service, 360 client view, robotics, and 3Dprinting.
A prototype is a simple experimental version of a proposed solution used to test or validate ideas so that the designer(s) involved can make appropriate refinements or possible changes. Examples of prototypes include Paper prototypes, digital prototypes, 3D prints, and scale models.
Firmware is a program that is embedded in a hardware device and is responsible for controlling various peripherals of the embedded hardware and generating responses in accordance with the functions of the particular product. The BIOS found in IBM-compatible Personal Computers, Softwares controlling a heart defibrillator, newer household appliances (microwave ovens, dishwashers, etc.), car electronics, etc are examples.
Electronic product design involves the design, development, and production of the electronic hardware that allows your project to come to life. Electronic product design is a process that consists of several steps that will securely help you take a product idea into mass production. Whatever special features and capabilities your solution provides are made possible by the hardware that does the work beneath the surface.
Starting and completing a project can be overwhelming. There are a lot of things to think about and process. While DIY is a great way to learn on the job, it is sometimes advisable to let the professionals handle the project. But how do you know when to call in a professional?
DIY can be cost-effective in some situations but it has its limitations. At the beginning of a project, there are usually unclear scopes and requirements are somewhat vague. You know what you want but not necessarily how to get it done. You can try to learn the process as you go but that will cost you time and the end result may not be as good as you want. You may also not meet your timeline and may end up putting the project on hold when life happens. If you are on a timeline or you have no idea what to do regarding a project, it’s advisable to let a pro handle it. If you are building slowly, then you might have time on your hands to pick up needed skills. Or maybe you have skills in the field and you just need something quick and simple, there are definitely ways to do so on your own. But in all, before making any decisions, evaluate the pros and cons.
For more on how to get a product design started or on the development process, check out how the Ovyl process works.