Thanks to new technology that can help you organize and build your own products, there’s no reason why anyone should be wasting time and money on bad product development—but making the most of this technology requires a lean design research process with executive buy in and involvement.
3 Tools for Better Product Development in 2017 and Beyond
Project management and design applications aren’t new. But there has been a plethora of new products built to make life easier for product teams. Three tools that are helping designers speed up the prototyping process while saving product development budget are:
Sketch: Nothing beats Photoshop for editing actual photos. However, for interface design, this application can replace Photoshop as a quick prototyping tool with its relatively low learning curve and affordability. With such a lightweight, easy-to-use package, you can mock up a prototype quickly as a proof of concept.
InVision: A UI proof of concept is only the first step for designers. InVision lets you take a static design file and create a clickable prototype. When you upload your design file, you can quickly add animations, and transitions while using the project management capabilities to quickly gather feedback.
Principle: This is a prototyping application that lets you build beautiful transitions that fully illustrate the intended interaction of the concept. This area of product design and development is a common point of contention where the designer proclaims the developer didn’t build it the way they intended. Building a visual interactive POC allows designers to quickly build, share, and validate their vision with the team.
These tools help design teams align plans and production more effectively. Rather than having 10 people on a team with 10 different visions of how the final product will work, we can quickly create a prototype and react to one unified perspective.
Having rapid prototyping capabilities makes it easier for design teams to garner interest at an earlier stage than with annotated static mockups. However, getting to the next level of success with product development while avoiding massive sunk costs into failed projects requires a fresh approach—lean design research with executive buy-in from the start.
Lean Design Research—Changing the Way Executives Look at Design
There was a time when design was largely regarded in terms of graphic/visual labels. From there, perceptions evolved toward user experience design—but in recent years, there’s been a realization that design teams are far more effective when they incorporate research practices as a standard component of the design process.
Adopting a lean design research strategy is essential for getting executive buy-in of the product earlier. When design was simply thought of as visual design, executives likely thought they didn’t need to be part of the processes. But when you think about design research in terms of your business objectives and how to meet them with efficiency and efficacy, you realize the immense value of assembling a team with executive stakeholders ready to build out a prototype for validation.
Executives might think about hiring a full-service research team in place of design research, but this can be expensive and doesn’t always yield a tangible result. Rather than paying for a robust 6-month research process that doesn’t leave you with anything to execute on, an agile research process can help you make informed decisions and get to market quickly.
The idea here is that a small investment of time from executives to get involved at an earlier stage will result in a much higher return than a more traditional team makeup. In addition to providing significant value to the design process, executives can gain valuable insight into how their organization runs and how people perceive the business.
These concepts aren’t new—executives should always take an interest in the design and development processes that drive business outcomes. However, it’s not uncommon that executive stakeholders forego getting involved in these early phases of product development. With the technology available to product teams today, it is much easier to create a lean design research process that’s undeniably more valuable to executive stakeholders—saving the company as a whole from sinking millions of dollars into a new product that no one wants.
Lean design research is not necessarily a common practice amongst product teams today. But the consumerism of IT will put increasing amounts of pressure on businesses to differentiate themselves through design. The most successful companies will be those that have total executive buy-in from the beginning.
Editors note: Updated 05/16/2017 with Slideshare