When technical meets creative – the four principles of digital product design

Technology service companies can often be stereotyped to be rigid around how they operate with their artefact-driven processes. These processes are crucial to ensure all teams can contribute and effectively collaborate. They should not be inflexible as they can inhibit creativity and innovation.

Every enterprise and endeavour is different, including the timeline and budget available, together with the skills mix available across the teams. Each one has a particular structure such as: a large vs. a small marketing department; a head of digital; or a head of mobile – different stakeholders and different infrastructures.

This complicated series of variables is why when considering the context and circumstance of a project, it is better to rely on principles rather than solely process as a guide.

'Experience Engineering' principles allow businesses to maintain creativity and generate solutions that are flexible within the context of methodical processes valuable for mitigating risk. These principles are about understanding why people use something (e.g. a product) and how to make things work better. Understanding people and products means driving insight throughout the entire process from kick-off to market delivery. There are a few key principles to achieve success:

Exist in the context

There is a need to understand the environment in which a product is used, which helps the design process to ensure a product is viable and will be successful in the marketplace when launched. For example, what particular trends are driving technology developments and innovation in the industry? Who are key competitors or what market alternatives exist for such a product? What type of technologies and technology partners are required to develop a product or service and launch it to market?

> See also: Meet the 'creative technologies' you may soon be hiring

Using 'exist in the context' as a key principle can help to identify the pains and gains around a product’s usage and issues an end customer could face, like, for example, the cost of starting to use the product.

Know the business

In order to design digital products, an understanding of the business is required – the short term and long term goals and the strategy for success. This ‘understanding’ can often be skewed in one direction or the other by stakeholders with varying perspectives and rarely is there a consensus, even within small companies.

To avoid unfair bias and get to the essence of the business’ objectives, it is useful to hold interviews with individual stakeholders from different departments to understand the goals of the organisation.This approach allows a distillation of the different perspectives within the business and is crucial to encapsulating the business strategy, which ultimately provides focused criteria for the product design.

Know the user

When creating propositions, a clear focus on who you are building the products for is required: the users. Understanding what tasks your users are trying to complete, the pains they have in doing so and how your product can answer their needs is critical. This principle will create value for the user and clarity around what your product is meant to be.

> See also: Learning from the digital natives

Focus on the biggest impact

Having the context of the business and an understanding of the business strategy will inform how to prioritise the features that are generated from the user-centred design process. You can rationalise the priority of features against business value and user value, to concentrate on the features that have the biggest impact. This focus will sharpen your value proposition and speed your development.

The expansion of the digital economy creates a necessary fusion between the creativity of producing innovative user experiences and the processes to ensure such experiences are tested, validated, and work as promised. By layering in principles on top of processes, organisations can achieve a finely-tuned balance of creative and technical forces.

James Williams, Director of Experience Engineering at Ness Software Engineering Services (SES)

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...