Uber is often used as an example of user experience design done right. One of the features that everyone loves is the countdown that tells you when your ride will arrive, which is certainly convenient and related to the purpose of the app. But what makes Uber so appealing is the ability to get a ride in your area almost any time throughout the day. Even if the countdown feature weren’t there, the app would still be useful. In other words, Uber was designed with the purpose of the product in mind, not the features that go along with it. This is simply another way of saying to keep the problems you are trying to solve with the users in mind at all times as you take your app from concept to creation. Read on to learn why product thinking will change your user experience design.
Defining the Job Your Product Is Supposed To Be Doing
These days, product users are bombarded with information. So sometimes they have trouble narrowing down the products and services they need. In some instances, there’s a problem that needs to be solved that customers or users weren’t even aware they had. With mobile or web app UX design, you have an opportunity to define the job your product will be doing by knowing what customers want before they do. You’re looking for a problem worth solving, not just a solution.
The evolution of DVD market is a prime example of this concept. Once upon a time — back in the ’90s — people were perfectly content with getting their DVDs from their local video store or local retail stores. Then Netflix came up with the idea of eliminating the need to go out and buy DVDs that might only be watched once or twice or to return them if they were rentals by shipping DVDs directly to users’ homes. And before streaming came along, another popular Netflix service, people didn’t know they had a “need” to instantly access movies and original shows from their various devices. Netflix is successful because they continue to further identify problems they can solve for users.
While Steve Jobs observed that “it’s not the customer’s job to know what they want,” you’re not going to create a meaningful user experience (UX) if you’re trying to solve a non-existent problem, or if your solution offered isn’t fixing the right problem. If an answer is wrong, you can always make appropriate product adjustments, but there’s nothing you can do about a product that’s trying to solve a non-existent problem. Your product may not be the next iPod, iPhone, or iPad, but there are steps you can take to find the right problem to solve:
• Do prep-product research to determine if people would use a product that solves the problem you intend to solve
• Take a look at similar products to identify potential problems not being solved that you may be able to solve
• Test your product among smaller groups of users before full launch to see if you are successfully solving a problem
Product Thinking Makes It Easier to Design Features
Thinking in products, with mobile application UX design is what will help you build useful and advantageous features. If you’re not clear on the problem, your designer will end up playing the guessing game when it comes to designing features. Product thinking done right creates a domino effect. Once you know why you’re building a product, you’ll be able to define your target audience by identifying who has the problems you want to solve. Therefore, your designer will have the guidance needed to create the right features, and you’ll have a goal (solution to the problem) that can be used to measure to the success of any features included with your product.
You’ll Find It Easier to Offer Valuable Solutions
A user interface (UI) that looks great is only going to be effective if you are providing useful solutions. It’s how you solve a user’s problem that defines the UX for your product. Visual and interactive features become the digital equivalent of empty calories by offering no value if they’re not helping to make the product meaningful.
Insomnia apps are a real-world example of apps that provide useful solutions, even though a decade ago nobody even realized an app could help them get a better night’s sleep. Deep Sleep with Andrew Johnson gives users step-by-step instructions on how to meditate and relax while getting ready to sleep. Sleep Cycle rests under users’ pillows to collect data and wake them up when they are least groggy. A feature that detects snoring was added later. Notice that this feature relates back to the problem (detecting snoring also helps the app know when it’s best to wake somebody up).
Defining Your Product
Having a “product thinking” mentality makes it easier to identify your product for everyone involved with it. Identifying your product starts with a vision (your big idea) for what your product will do. You’ll then need to know who your target audience is (who you are solving the problem for). The next step in defining your product is knowing what problem you are solving. Then come up with your solution and finally, have measurable and actionable goals in mind, so you’ll know if your product is working. Answering the following questions can help you with product thinking:
• What problem do you want to solve?
• Who are you solving this problem for?
• Why are you solving this problem?
• How are you going to do this?
• What are your goals with the product that will be solving the problem?
Understanding the Complete User Design Experience
Building features is easy. The real challenge is providing the right features for the right people at the time they need them. What product thinking does is streamline the UX design process by helping you get a better idea of the big picture — or the complete user design experience. It takes the disconnect out of things like visual elements, product function, and UI by ensuring that designers are, well, creating with purpose and tackling legitimate user problems. Remember, each step in user experience design process must have a purpose.
Motion design is very trendy today. But it would be meaningless if your core design values are mispositioned, and most users today don’t have the patience to sit through a pointless animation display before using an app for its intended purpose. Ultimately, product thinking helps app creators:
• Reduce the risk of building an app nobody wants
• Save money by offering the right solutions
• Make smart feature decisions
Helping UX Designers Deliver a Better Product
When product thinking is part of the process from the get-go, designers will be able to ask the right questions, communicate more effectively and build the right features. If designers have a clear direction about what a product is supposed to do and what problem it’s going to solve, they’re more likely to know when to say “no” to feature requests that aren’t in line with product thinking before time and money is wasted on fancy layouts and wireframes.
It’s easy to get lost in endless features and overlook some of the important parts of the design process. Avoid the potential pitfalls of focusing on features rather than usability of the product by making product thinking part of your mobile or web app UX design process. There’s nothing wrong with features, but they shouldn’t become more important than the actual purpose of your app. Keep this in mind and what you’ll end up with is a digital product that’s the whole created and tested for its targeted users.