Product managers work directly in developing new products, and every business has its own philosophies regarding product design. One of these philosophies is User-Centered Design (UCD). UCD is also known as ‘Design Thinking’ and aims to achieve a greater understanding of the market by putting the customer at the center of the design process.
But why should you be concerned with Design thinking? It’s simple, companies that employ the design thinking philosophy have a 56% higher return than their competitors. So, if you want to outperform your competition and achieve a competitive advantage, keep reading to find out how to implement UCD in your business strategy.
Research: talk to customers and understand what they are looking for.
UCD puts the user first, and it all starts with research. The main goal in this first step is to achieve a greater understanding of the problem by placing the customer at the center. If you don’t do this step correctly, you risk spending a lot of time and money developing something your audience isn’t interested in. You must understand who you’re designing for.
A great way to understand your users is to create what is known in the marketing world as personas or your customer avatar. You want to include as many details as possible. It’s essential to understand your audience demographics and psychographics as well. You need to understand their challenges, desires, fears, frustrations, aspirations, and what keeps them awake at night.
The more data you get here, the better. The low-hanging fruit is to look at the data your company currently has and talk to the people in your company that are responsible for interacting with customers. People who work in the sales department and deal with customer feedback are excellent sources of information.
Even if you have a lot of good information inside the company, getting out there to talk with customers is crucial. Don’t skip this step.
If you have people who already bought from you that you can reach out to, that’s a great place to start. But that’s not always the case, especially if you’re just starting your company. The good news is that there are many ways you can find people who fit your audience online. Facebook groups and Reddit are great for reaching out and starting a conversation. To gather their information, you can make a list of questions and use the platform’s chatting tool or a tool such as Google forms.
Now that you gathered a lot of information about your audience, it’s time to define the most significant problems your potential, and current customers are dealing with.
Define: what problems do your customers have in common?
Now you’ll take everything you learned from talking to your customers and looking at your company data and identify the users’ needs, problems, and challenges.
What are the main insights that you can take from all this information? The key is identifying commonalities. You need to identify common problems, common challenges, and the things that have a sizeable impact on your users.
After listing the most common problems, you need to start getting creative and brainstorming all the possible solutions you can offer. This will allow you to start thinking about products or services that your team can develop.
Ideation: get the creative juice flowing.
With all the insights you get in the defining phase, you’ll start to come up with solutions, ideas, and potential matches of products or services that can solve these problems.
This will allow you to design your service or product with greater precision. The goal here isn’t to come up with one final idea that you’ll stick to forever. The goal is to have a brainstorming session with all the people available at your company to come up with a lot of ideas. Having many different people from different sectors is essential to get different perspectives and takes on the same information.
In the beginning, brainstorm as many ideas as possible without filtering. After you have an extensive list of ideas, you can choose the best ones.
Okay, now you have a list of ideas. But are these ideas any good? I don’t know, and neither will you at this point. Only your customers can give you the answers you need to move forward. The next step is about testing these ideas and getting honest feedback.
Validate: is the product ready to enter the market?
Now you’ll pick the best ideas and filter them to select a few that have the potential to become a new product or a new service. Pick the ideas that are worth making into something for your audience. The goal is to turn these ideas into simple and testable prototypes. They don’t need to be fully designed yet. The goal is to quickly make something you can test with real users.
After you develop the prototype, you need to test it in the field with real users. This will allow you to get feedback from them to see what is working and what you can improve. You can also see if the product or service is ready to enter the market. The feedback you receive in this phase will dictate what you should do next. You will either put your product on the market or iterate by returning to the first steps.
Iterate: keep improving to provide the best possible solution.
Once you get your test results, you can go back to the past phases to iterate and improve the product. There’s no hard rule here. Based on the feedback you’ve received, you’ll see what phase you need to return to.
And if the feedback is great, don’t be afraid to start putting the real version of the product on the market. You don’t necessarily need to return to the other phases; your results in the validation part will dictate your next steps. It’s also worth reapproaching the iteration process periodically. You will need to check if your customers’ needs have changed because the market changes over time.
There you have it! You’ve learned that the most crucial aspects of UCD are your customers’ needs, how you can come up with a solution that your customer is looking for, and how to continue to improve your solution so that you can have the best product on the market.
Implementing these ideas will help you increase your revenue and make your sales process easier because what makes a product sell is how well it fits the market. And by following this step-by-step, you have the exact product your customer wants.
If you want to keep learning how to offer better customer experiences, check out Rise’s guide on improving your website user experience.
The opinions expressed here by Guest Contributors are their own, not those of Rise Marketing.