How to Build an Awesome Product & Design Strategy

How do you know you’re building the right products and features? Is there anything more frustrating than planning design and development efforts with no real understanding of our customers or how we’re helping our business?

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I’ve been doing UX and product design work for over 10 years now. From having worked with everyone from a guy with an idea in his basement, Fortune 500s and everything in between, I’ve realized one simple fact. Building a product is relatively easy. Building the RIGHT product (and features) is a whole lot harder.

My experience doing UX and product work not only in house with companies, but as a consultant as well, has shown me more and more that the value I bring is not in designing or building the actual product or features. My job, and value, is in helping people make the smartest and most informed decisions they can in order to build the RIGHT products and features. I suspect that’s your job too if you’re reading this.

So how do we do this? What is product strategy and how do we get started in creating an awesome one? Well, I’ve experimented and tested this approach for years and I’ve boiled it down to a few key principles.

​How to build an awesome product and design strategy

  1. Start with solid, well defined goals for the business, product and user experience​
  2. Talk to your customers and users to learn their needs and behavior
  3. Make design decisions and product recommendations that are supported by those research insights and one or more of your goals
  4. Measure the change and/or success of each decisions with a detailed measurement plan

Goals

Creating well defined goals for your product and user experience begins with understanding what success looks like for the business. By outlining why the product or service in question helps the business overall, you can get a better sense for what you need to learn from customers to meet those goals. Solid strategic goals help us define what a good design or product decision is later.

User Research Insights

Conducting customer research will vary depending on your product, target audience and needs at that given time. Suffice it to say, though, user research is absolutely critical in creating a successful product and design strategy. No matter your research method, it is vital that you take everything you learned from that research, analyze your raw data into summarized findings, or insights and apply them to the decisions and recommendations you make. This process can be tricky, but the payoff is enormous.

Design & Product Decisions

Making design decisions or product recommendations supported by your research insights is your next step in creating an awesome product strategy. The key here, is to very clearly illustrate how your designs, feature recommendations or decisions are also helping you meet one or more of the goals you outlined earlier. This is why creating crystal clear, detailed goals for your product and user experience is so important. Sharing your product strategy and decisions you’ve made is so much easier when you draw the connection between them, research insights and supported strategic goals.

Measuring Product & Design Strategy

Measuring the success of product and design work has been an elusive task. Start by assigning specific metrics to each decision or recommendation you make as part of your strategy. That is to say that there’s no single metric that will likely measure your success. Examine each goal you outlined for your product and user experience, choose metrics that represent those goals well, then assign those metrics to each decision you made to help meet those goals. Again, this can be a case by case basis so spend the time in creating very detailed goals at the start of your product strategy.

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This was originally published on the Aurelius blog.

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