May 1, 2023
Lately, I've been engaged in mentoring, and through this journey, I've had the privilege of connecting with digital product designers and enthusiasts from across the globe. These encounters have led me to categorize them into two distinct groups: the technicals and the non-technicals. I'd like to place the spotlight on the latter group.

Most of my discussions with those who lean towards the non-technical side often revolve around their quest for a technical understanding of product design. They seek insights into structuring their portfolios in alignment with product design methodologies and processes.

As someone whose inclination tilts more towards artistry than technical prowess, my venture into the tech realm was undoubtedly challenging. To navigate the complexities of product design, I found it necessary to distil it into its fundamental components. This approach allowed me to unravel the technical jargon and design-speak and present them to myself in a simpler perspective.

Bootcamps, online tutorials, and similar resources tend to focus extensively on the technical aspects while sometimes neglecting the fundamental building blocks. Everyone seems to be discussing the "double diamond" and quantitative research, but they often forget to instil the basics, which I firmly believe anyone can comprehend. Therefore, I've taken it upon myself to write this piece with the aim of assisting those who, like me, consider themselves creatively inclined but occasionally find themselves overwhelmed by the intricacies of the product design world.

While it might initially appear as an enigmatic domain reserved solely for tech wizards, I'm here to unveil the truth: digital product design is a dynamic and inclusive discipline. It empowers individuals from diverse backgrounds to contribute and comprehend the enchanting machinations behind our digital tools.

What is Digital Product Design?

At its core, digital product design is the process of shaping the user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) of digital products. These products encompass websites, mobile applications, software, and more. The ultimate goal is to make these digital entities not only intuitive and visually appealing but also highly functional for users. In essence, it's about translating complex ideas into digital solutions that are user-focused and user-friendly.

Demystifying the Process

Here's the revelation: digital product design is not an exclusive club reserved for the technically gifted. In fact, it's a process that anyone can grasp. Let's break it down to its essence: it's about discovering and identifying problems, creatively generating solutions to these problems, designing those solutions, testing them, and refining them for further learning and enhancement.

As humans, we are innately problem solvers who tackle diverse challenges every day. The process we follow to solve these everyday problems isn't all that different from the product design process, albeit with a structured technical framework. What's more, the product design process is non-linear, much like how we address real-life problems.

Consider this scenario: you discover your roof is leaking, and you decide to fix it yourself. What would you do? You might turn to Google to search for solutions, consult a friend who's an expert, or even reach out to the public on social media for advice. After gathering information, you settle on a solution to try, believing it will resolve the issue, but not entirely sure. Then, you put your solution to the test. If it works, that's fantastic; if not, you go back to the drawing board and try something else. It's as straightforward as that.

When you frame it within the structure of a design process, it boils down to:

Research and Discovery:
Understand the needs, behaviours, and preferences of your target audience through methods like interviews, surveys, and observations. Analyze the competitive landscape and market trends to identify opportunities and gaps.

Problem Definition:
Define the problem or challenge your product/solution aims to address. 

Ideation and Brainstorming:
Generate a wide range of ideas and potential solutions to the identified problem.

Concept Development:
Refine and select the most promising concepts or ideas from the ideation phase. Create rough sketches, wireframes, or prototypes to visualize these concepts.

Develop interactive prototypes or mockups of the product's user interface. Prototypes allow for testing and validation of design ideas.

User Testing:
Conduct usability testing with real users to gather feedback on the prototype. Identify usability issues and areas for improvement.

Visual Design:
Create the visual elements of the product, including color schemes, typography, icons, and graphics. Ensure consistency with the brand identity.

Design Refinement:
Iteratively refine the design based on user feedback and testing results. Make adjustments to improve usability and user satisfaction.

Development Collaboration:
Collaborate closely with developers to ensure that the design is translated accurately into functional code. Resolve any design and development conflicts.

Testing and Quality Assurance:
Conduct thorough testing of the developed product/solution to identify and fix any bugs, glitches, or performance issues.

Once the product/solution is primed and polished, it's introduced to the world for users to engage with. However, this isn't the final chapter; designers continuously monitor user feedback and implement improvements to elevate the overall user experience.

Iteration and Improvement:
Based on post-launch data and insights, make iterative improvements to the product/solution. Implement updates, new features, and enhancements.

In conclusion, digital product design, in all its apparent complexity, is an accessible realm that welcomes participants from various backgrounds. It's a journey that celebrates problem-solving, creativity, and empathy for users. So, for all those non-technicals like me out there who find the technical details daunting, this is how you break it down, this is all you should keep in mind.
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