What I write about when I write about design — Part I (UX — Strategy — Competitor Analysis)

First of all this is going to be a series of stories involving various stages of a product design journey right from strategy to product launch.

“Sharing knowledge is contagious and at its best when put out for others concumption.”

A brief about the product,

“MioSalon is a salon and spa management software built with customer engagement and retention as the core. The overarching goal of the product is to help salon owners to carry out seamless day to day transactions and efficiently engage their customers to maximise customer lifetime value (CLTV)and increase customer retention.”

MioSalon is a SAAS product (Software-As-A-Service) which runs from cloud. (I will only write business strategies that are relevant to UX) One of the design strategies for the product is, it has to be a lightweight application with essential features to solve some of the current problems of the salon owners in salon/spa management.

During the research phase we found customer churn is very high as a result customer retention is a big challenge for the sustainability of a salon/spa business. Some of the existing salon and spa management applications in the market are very old school, in terms of usability and features, hardly helping salon owners to solve their problems.

I presume by now you got a fair idea about the product to follow along. The first step in a Product Design is Strategy.

UX Process Overview

Strategy

A strategy is where you define business goals and long-term vision of a business organisation — how the product is hoping to achieve the goals and how the success is measured. Ideally you will be given one during stakeholder interview. One of the techniques involved in strategy is competitor analysis. Well, a few might think this will come under research phase. Yes! you are right. But for the interest of time start ups majorly skip an extensive time consuming research phase and execute Lean UX approach. However, it is crucial to do competitor analysis and it is not advisable to strip it down. Let me get you through a quick explanation of what is Lean UX Approach? before diving deeper into competitor analysis.

Lean UX Approach

If you have come across the book “Lean Start Up” by Eric Ries, it defines the process of product development as Build<Measure<Learn. This is a cyclic process followed until a desired product outcome is reached or it may continue as an on-going process that contributes to the enhancement of a product.

Similarly, Lean UX approach is skipping traditional processes and keeping up with bare components to get started on product implementation. The steps goes like this (which is very typical in a start up environment)

  1. Concept (Major part of your UX process is shrinked to a low-fidelity wireframe)
  2. Prototype
  3. Validate internally
  4. Learn from user behaviour
  5. Iterate

Research and iterative stakeholder approvals that are involved in a waterfall UX approach is stripped down.

Competitor Analysis

Whether you work for a start up or a big organisation this a very crucial step involved in UX process. Basically, you are trying to understand your potential counter parts, what they do, how they do, how much market share they have (will be taken care in branding strategy), what their customers say about them, what they say about them etc., As a result you will be able to design a better product or position your product with a different value proposition.

Competitive research for MioSalon involved

  1. Name/Wesbite URL of the competitor
  2. Products/Services offered
  3. Pricing models
  4. Strength/weakness
  5. Value proposition (brand differentiator)
  6. Finding the product capabilities (with the help of customers or on your own)

Once you have created a competitive overview you can analyse it against your product strategy and see if it aligns with the business goals. Herein some pivoting is done in terms of improvising the strategy if there is a gap found or else you are good to go with the existing one.

Again competitive research need not be an exhaustive process, with the wealth of information across internet one can gather necessary information in no time flat.

Key takeaways:

So when you start your UX design process,

  1. Understand business goals and strategies.
  2. Do a competitor analysis before you dive into an extensive research phase if time permits.
  3. Evaluate the outcome of competitor analysis to see if your product strategy is in a good direction.