It’s difficult to predict the success of a new product. Even the largest, most mature companies have created products that fail to gain market acceptance and profitability. And as we’ve seen in numerous industries, product success can’t be guaranteed by financial investment or process optimization.
With the need to move fast in the light therapy market and an inability to guarantee success through any means, we continue to seek ways to manage the inherent risk in product development.
There is a gap between user wants and user needs and while it is easy to assume that the difference might not be clear, taking an empathetic approach creates a finer line between the two. Although Creative Directors are problem-solvers at their core, they achieve this by building data-based frameworks for visualizing how best to serve their target audience.
It is no longer about market data assessment and sales hands-off alone; there is a need to properly distinguish between user needs and wants while choosing how best to attend to those needs and paying just enough attention to user wants. Understanding the user metrics for this analysis and insight might seem daunting, especially when the aim is to improve product experience directly, but taking a design-thinking approach helps make better sense of the process.
What Exactly is Design Thinking?
Popularized by IDEO, Design Thinking is a human-centered, empathy-first approach to creativity and innovation. Its underlying principle focuses on user needs, aspirations, wishes, concerns, and frustrations in attempting to solve their problems. Interestingly, Design Thinking focuses on the most important view from which problem-solving should be approached; the users. When problem-solving is approached from a user’s point of view, it allows for uncovering novel insights into the product’s user flow, thereby finding the right solution to the right problem.
The Design Thinking process is quite similar to the Agile methodology of Product Management; as a matter of fact, Design Thinking helps to materialize the otherwise abstract concept by allowing ease of iteration and faster user-testing processes. Implementing design thinking in product management makes it easy to consider expedient user experience factors. Top on the list includes:
- ‘Predicting’ your users’ thoughts: Steve Krug, author of Don’t make me think, suggests fully understanding users’ needs and subsequent workflow, so much so that you can correctly predict their next move (no, you don’t have to be a mind reader to achieve this). This is a basic fundamental that connects directly between design thinking and product management.
- “We should listen to our users’ needs to the point that we know and tell them what they should be thinking.” –Steve Krug.
- Make your users think less: Hick’s law is the 4th law of User Experience; it suggests that your design should minimize how much your users have to think when interacting with your product.
Kaiyan Design Thinking Steps
Companies employing design thinking are allowed to release products more often, gather meaningful customer feedback, and validate a product’s use and vision in a marketplace while sustaining a high level of customer satisfaction, as one release builds on another to add features customers desire most.
Implementing design thinking into product development can be broken down into 5 steps:
- Define — Customer Vision. You need to begin the development process by clearly defining the target customer’s underlying needs, developing a deep understanding of how a prospective solution improves their condition — a key principle of design thinking. Empathize with your users. Find their jobs to be done. Next, you need to define a prospective solution’s functional requirements and the core competencies required to support the solution for those jobs to be done.
- Share — User Personas. Having defined the customer’s needs and the solution’s functional requirements, the next step is to host a meeting with all team members to share a common vision of the project. User personas should be defined and explained to the whole team. Your objective is to establish roles for each team member, with everyone understanding how they support the project and how each individual contributes to the project’s success. You want to avoid having team members merely given tasks without the context of how their tasks fit into the larger development. This approach allows team members to consider the entire project as they perform assigned tasks throughout the development, reducing the likelihood of misaligned pieces when the project is assembled as a whole.
- Prioritize — Planning. The third step in this process is to meet with the project’s management team to categorize features slated for particular releases. The Kano model may be helpful to organize features in categories such as “Basic,” “Performance,” and “Wow.” The idea is to balance each release with features from each category, being mindful not to fill a release with features from only one category, such as having a Basic features release, or a release with only Wow features that doesn’t include a set of basic features required to make a product viable. The outcome of this step is a plan to introduce features to the marketplace through frequent releases with incremental customer value — another key design thinking principle.
- Implement. The fourth step is where product releases are developed. It’s important to remain mindful that design thinking is an iterative process requiring feedback and validation. As such, each implementation needs to enlighten: include mechanisms and processes that will let you examine customer experience after each release. Apply web analytics or specialized tools that provide extensive commentary to analyze customers and gather valuable feedback. It is important not only to collect data but to make it work: make sure that the results of any feedback are added to the backlog to improve your product constantly.
- Validate. The fifth and last step in the process is to review feedback on a particular release, validate the vision, and begin the process all over again with step 1. This focuses each release to meet the specific needs of a target customer, creating a building block approach to product development that provides incremental value at low risk. Accept that users may not immediately accept your concept. Try to be objective, don’t see things in black and white, and restructure your vision to improve your product.
Most of the companies jump straight to point #4, which is a terrible mistake.
To make things clear, structure your tasks: build up a framework, define both focus points and sticking points of your research, and remember that most questions have two answers — the one that appeals to business and speaks to a customer.
Development Cycle — Solving a Crime
Think like a detective when starting a product development cycle, and ask these questions:
Who is going to use your product? What are their habits and preferences? It is essential to understand real user needs and how they are addressed without your product. Define the key problems and set your sights on them. What’s the context of use? What is their motivation behind using your product, and how can you inspire them to make the most out of it?
Think big. What is the place of your product in the ecosystem? Sometimes it may be just a part of greater service. Keep in mind the environment of use since it creates a general customer experience.
Whether you like it or not, time is vital for your project. “Done” is better than “perfect.” That’s why it’s important to keep the scope of your project in mind, to limit it to essential things for a quick market release.
What is the real value of the product for your customer and your business? What issues does it address, and in what way? Why did you create it, and what’s its role in the company development?
These questions are essential for creating a general perception of the main problem you are solving for your client: it’s so easy to get side-tracked with a load of on-demand, seemingly effortless tasks. Besides, it’s impossible to solve a problem that doesn’t exist, so why carry an extra burden? When details are pushing you to the limit, take an imaginary step back and see the problem from a different angle. Visualize the role of a certain detail in the general canvas of your work. It does not mean you have to bury your project under piles of documentation. We all know that red tape is more about restricting rather than making things easy, and freedom is essential at the initial stages of any project. This is how innovation is born; under conditions of free thought, bright vision, and sheer inspiration.