Five tips for delivering a better product

Digital systems are now complex products with many different specialisms required to realise a product vision and delivery. As with any well-designed product, the desire is to make a digital product that although may be complex under the bonnet, is easy to use and operate from the driving seat.

In the early days of digital design during the time of “webmasters”, projects would often have had no structured research or user input. Ideas came from the team, sometimes a single “webmaster” or the client, based on what the client knew about the market and the people who would be using the system. There were limited applications and limited choice for users on what software or website to use.

“The surface of things gives enjoyment; their interiority gives life”
Piet Mondrian

Standing out from the crowd

Today there is much more choice – there are now millions of applications available to download and use on your mobile device, tablet and laptop. But now you only have approximately eight seconds to convince a customer that a mobile app is worth their time. That’s eight seconds before they abandon it and perhaps delete it.

Once a customer dismisses an app, it becomes much harder to woo them back when you’ve made improvements to the product and/or experience.

Research into understanding the business objectives and customer needs, and ensuring the design of the application is easy to use and visually appealing is now more critical than ever. The stakes are high, and competition is ever increasing, so ensuring you have a “good design” – one that meets business objectives and user needs – should be high on your list of business goals.

As applications have progressed and become more complex to design and deliver, the processes for delivery have changed. Many digital projects are now delivered using Agile delivery methods, where user stories and conditions of acceptance have replaced full-scale upfront design and technical specification documents.

For some projects, the design is completed up front. A design specification is still required but broken down into user stories for delivery. For other projects, design and research may be embedded into the team and completed within sprints or just ahead of delivery sprints.

User validation of concepts, designs and delivery throughout sprints help ensure the product is meeting the UX goals agreed at the outset of the project. You have very little time to convince the user that your product is the right product for them and user validation throughout the development cycle will help ensure that the product will meet the user and business goals before a public release.

To summarise – here are five tips that will help you deliver a product that will meet the business goals and objectives:

  • Work with stakeholders to help highlight the user needs for the project. If a business objective is to reduce cost, a user-centred application could help the organisation save money by reducing the time needed to learn to use the system – and minimise or even eliminate training costs.
  • Educate the team. Help the team to understand the importance of business and user goals and why understanding these can mean the difference between good and bad design. Share video snippets from user testing sessions to help the business and developers understand barriers or restrictions with the product.
  • Regularly review the agreed goals and objectives throughout the project delivery. Is the project meeting the objectives outlined at the start of the project? If the project is not meeting some of the agreed user goals, review the UX process and put changes in place early.
  • Agree at the outset of the project how goals and objectives will be measured. If a goal is ease of use of the application, put sufficient measurements in place to track progress throughout the project.
  • Work with the product team to agree on a timetable for UX input and user testing throughout the delivery cycle, and work with the team to provide contingency to review the delivery – testing your concepts through the design cycle. This approach will help ensure designs and ideas are easy to understand. It’s essential to continually review with product users through the development cycle to ensure that any agreed changes put in place do not disrupt the goals and objectives.

Everybody wants beautiful, simple, easy to use interfaces however this doesn’t equate to “design is easy” – the key thing to remember is “complex is easy, simple is hard.”